Have you met the minds yet?
Yes, we’re talking about the Evisort podcast Meeting of the Minds with host Alex Su! This mini-series features real stories from the front lines of the legal industry. We started the project to inspire and connect the legal ecosystem with stories of personal journeys, career challenges and innovation. We talk about making the move in-house from BigLaw. We talk about diversity and inclusion. In the first episode, we even talk about beer.
We’re honored to host so many amazing guests thus far. If you missed episodes one and two, we’re joined by world traveler Craig Katerberg and legal ops pioneer Connie Brenton, respectively. They both have invaluable advice for in-house lawyers looking to drive change in their organizations. So, we’ve captured some of the highlights in this post. To catch the rest of the conversation, tune in to Meeting of the Minds on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or right here on Evisort.com.
Craig Katerberg (General Counsel, Anheuser-Busch) provides some perspective on what it really means to be a GC and offers advice for younger lawyers hoping to make an impact within their firm or legal operations department. Craig says the key for his team has been to treat digital transformation as a mission — “Legal Ops 2.0” — rather than a simple product. In the excerpt below, he shares what it means for lawyers to be a true partner to the business.
One of the most common things I’ve heard from folks in your role is that you can’t just be the lawyer in the room. You have to really invest in understanding the business. How did you do that as a lawyer?
My first piece of advice to in-house lawyers, which is strange to give during a pandemic, is go out into where the business actually happens.
I work for a beer company. So I need to understand what beer is. I have to know all the different processes that go into brewing beer. I have to understand what it’s like for our customers to buy beer. It’s second nature for me at this point that whenever I walk into a bar, I find myself counting the tap handles to see how many are ours. I’ll look at the products they have behind the bar. I’ll notice what people are drinking and read what’s being advertised on those little tabletop pamphlets.
The people really running the business are the ones getting the product out. Those are the people who are out hauling beer crates, and meeting distributors and checking the pH levels of the water. And yeah, if I go around with the sales team or the brewers, they’re going to talk and talk and talk in their brewer’s language or sales language with acronyms and shorthands for everything. It’s our job as lawyers to invest time in understanding what the business people care about and how they talk about it.
Connie Brenton, Chief of Staff & Sr. Director of Legal Operations at NetApp and the former CEO/Founder of CLOC, tells stories from her experience as a pioneer and a community builder in the rapidly growing legal operations space. Below, she discusses her passion to drive diversity and inclusion through the Corporate Legal Leaders program she chairs. CLL is a training program that increases diversity throughout the entire legal ecosystem by connecting law students with job opportunities.
What do you think the role of diversity and inclusion plays for a legal department?
Diversity and inclusion is the cornerstone of any business. There have been so many studies that show that diverse organizations perform better and also are more fun to work in.
Here’s the thing. It doesn’t take very many people to create a diversity and inclusion movement. If you think that you might be interested in getting involved, you should do so, because — I am not kidding you — it is so easy to make a difference. Maybe hire an intern and bring somebody in your environment that you might not have otherwise.
What’s compelling about Southern University Law Center, and why we expanded the Corporate Legal Leaders program, is that we saw an amazing group of students who simply did not have access.
How did that partnership develop?
I was speaking at a law school event and afterwards got a call from the Chancellor of Southern University Law Center, which is an HBCU. He said, “We do things differently here. You might want to take a look.” So Matt Fawcett [GC at NetApp] and I flew down to Baton Rouge. As we toured the campus the Chancellor knew every student by name. To recruit, he actually looks at an applicant’s CV and personally calls to give them their acceptance. Now, I’ve run internship programs at StorageTek, Oracle and NetApp so I’ve seen a lot of legal interns. We had 10 interviews at Southern University and it was one incredible student after another. It was life changing.
So that’s how CLL got started a little over a year ago. And it’s already come full circle. I heard just yesterday that Keesal, Young & Logan [one of the original CLL participants] hired that first intern from Southern University Law Center.
Visit Corporate Legal Leaders to learn how you can host an intern, volunteer as a course speaker or get involved with CLL at your school.
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This blog post only scratches the surface of two amazing conversations with Meetings of the Minds guests. If you’re curious to hear how Connie founded CLOC and grew it into the world’s largest association of legal ops professionals — or if you want to know why Craig thinks the new wave of AI tools will only improve lawyer’s jobs, not replace them — you’ll have to catch the full episodes on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
You can also join Evisort for Meeting of the Minds Live November 17 at 11am PT. Learn how to supercharge the value of your in-house legal department and transform them from a team of “no” to a team of “yes.”