THE ADVANCELAW GC LEADERSHIP AWARD is given to GCs who provide exceptional leadership to their companies, the legal profession and society. These GCs have led beyond expectations and touched lives beyond the legal department. AdvanceLaw will select and recognize 20 inspirational GCs across 2021, and will profile each of them here.
Anne Madden, Honeywell
Anne Madden: In Her Own Words
In Their Own Words profiles focus on how GCs have transcended the “reactive lawyer” role to lead positive change in their companies, the legal profession and society.
Anne Madden is a champion of innovative change initiatives. After 15 years as Honeywell’s VP and Global Head of M&A, Anne stepped up as general counsel in 2017 in a big way: she implemented comprehensive digital contract lifecycle management and transformed Honeywell’s approach to law firm management. With her full commitment and confidence in implementing digital innovation and her belief that change can be a good thing in the legal realm, Anne embodies the qualities of a true leader.
We begin with nine “fill in the blanks” with Anne:
- The best thing a GC can do for a client is:
“Push themselves outside the four walls of the legal function and act like a business owner. The crossover gives you a voice at the table.”
- One big change in the corporate legal sector by 2025 will be:
“Better decision-making through digital analytics.”
- The hardest thing I’ve ever done professionally was:
“Transition back to law after 15 years as the M&A leader – I thought I was going to be an M&A/finance person forever. I surprised myself with the courage to practice law again.”
- I love it when law firm lawyers:
“Teach me something new.”
- I really dislike it when law firm lawyers:
“Tell me something I already know.”
- Three things I love about my team’s culture:
“They’re action oriented and practical, courageous, and intelligent risk takers.”
- One thing I should really change about the way I work:
“Delegating more. I like the work of work and I really like the details, so I tend to get in the weeds on too many things. I need more proper weekends!”
- One sentence of advice for my 25-year-old self:
“Embrace change. Change makes you stronger, smarter and better.”
- The thing I’m most proud of:
“My team’s heroic contribution to Honeywell’s COVID response. Everyone flexed their big leadership muscles and worked collaboratively to keep our factories open and our people safe.”
A Broken System
Taking over the general counsel role at Honeywell in 2017, I knew there was a lot of work to be done. Our contracts across the system were all over God’s Green Acre! There was a mishmash of papers everywhere with very little ability to stay out in front and make significant changes. Honeywell as a company was undergoing digital transformation at the time, and I knew Legal had to be a part of that digital push in a big way.
Luckily, we had the right leaders to do it! We were fortunate to have a very strong pool of legal and other functional leaders who knew how important this digital innovation mission was. The task itself was daunting – taking hundreds of contract terms and templates and fitting them into one usable system, not to mention the challenging technical integration and implementation of the system. And of course, any type of significant change like this takes an emotional toll on people because you are forcing them to work differently. I’m fortunate to have had such a strong and courageous team to go through this with. We put our trust in each other and the process, and wow am I happy with the opportunity we created!
A “LEAP” of Faith
After establishing a need to automate our contract lifecycle process, we got down to business. Our new digital contract lifecycle management tool – branded as LEAP – was set up to enable the user to create contracts with the same repeatable terms. A one-stop shop for NDAs and sales and procurement contracts. We wanted to bring standardized work to the center of Honeywell. The key was developing optimal efficiency, doing the same repeatable work with more productivity and better business results.
The true heroes in this endeavor are our IT team. Lawyers are not always naturally technologically inclined *laughs* . . . so getting IT involved as a key partner was critical. My only regret is not getting them involved sooner! They helped us through the bad, the ugly, and the worst. Change in itself is hard, but when it comes to digital transformation, there is oftentimes an added layer of frustration and pain. I’m so grateful that IT helped us, not just from a technical standpoint, but as an emotional comfort as well! And after an uphill battle with technical glitches and pivoting mid-course to a new implementation partner, I was thrilled to see very quick payback on our investment… and the development of valuable new business opportunities we discovered along the way!
The benefits from a project like this should be measurable, and they were. It was so gratifying to see the working capital benefits as a result of our efforts. Last year we exceeded our working capital goal! We even managed to stay on budget throughout the process. Digital legal transformation is extremely challenging, but with the right team, tools, and determination, you may be surprised at how much, and how quickly, the rewards come. And this effort has opened our eyes to how much more we can do to influence better business results.
Strategic Partner Program
I am very proud of the work we have accomplished with AdvanceLaw to revamp and bring new life to our outside counsel panel. At the start of the project, we took a hard look at the multitude of firms we were using, and it was clear a significant amount of money was caught up in elite firm spend. I wanted our firms to have metrics and accountability the same way our business does. We needed to run an operating system that allowed us to measure and drive the right things.
The biggest and most surprising challenge was getting my team to have an open mind when it came to outside counsel management. Lawyers have a deep-seated emotional connection with some firms that can cloud their judgment on firm performance. People keep going back to the same old firms because that’s where they’re comfortable – but we all know clinging to comfort leaves no room for growth, change, or new perspectives.
This was the most difficult area for me to navigate as a leader. I knew I had to step up and make sure people parked their emotions, worries, and fears about a bad outcome. We needed them to think through a pure, unemotional business return perspective, trusting the process and knowing that we would be better off in the end.
Thankfully, when one (or more) doors close, many more exciting opportunities you never would have imagined open up! Of course, there were the great practical benefits we achieved like seeing our legal spend come down, but the real thrill is developing meaningful relationships with a firm you otherwise might never have worked with and seeing the quality of their people and work product. I love when a strategic partner firm works with my team and just blows our socks off! The quality of work is great and you end up with a seamless and productive partnership. It feels great to get that value. Our continued work with AdvanceLaw has allowed Honeywell’s Legal Team to work better and smarter, and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store.
Verona Dorch, Providence St. Joseph Health
Verona Dorch was an extraordinary person who embodied the qualities of a true leader throughout her incredible career. We were able to honor her with the GC Leadership Award in December 2020 before she sadly passed away unexpectedly in February of this year.
At AdvanceLaw, we worked with Verona to set up her law firm panels at Peabody, and in 2020 we began that process at Providence. We saw how she led through change with vision and a destination in mind.
We created a special page in honor of Verona that announces the AdvanceLaw GC Leadership Award presented to Verona, shares compelling quotes from her about leadership, and links to other honors Verona received during her career.
Lee Reichert, Molson Coors
Lee Reichert’s almost 10-year tenure at Molson Coors has been filled with impressive leadership and a thoughtful effort to make positive, lasting changes in the company and the legal profession. One such effort was the creation of an 18-month law department clerkship which has created additional opportunities for diverse law school graduates. It exposes young lawyers to in-house legal work, providing them with a powerful – and highly marketable – experience straight out of law school. Below, Lee talks us through his company’s innovative clerkship program and its goal to impact DEI for Molson Coors and in the legal profession.
But first – eight “fill in the blanks” with Lee:
Lee Reichert: Eight Questions
The best thing a GC can do for the company is:
“Develop the next generation of leaders.”
One big change in the corporate legal sector by 2025 will be:
“AI becoming more commonplace. It’s coming for sure, and it’s going to be a gamechanger.”
The hardest thing I’ve ever done professionally was:
“Going through the repercussions of the tragic shooting at our Milwaukee facility last February, followed immediately by the pandemic shutdown. Truly the most challenging and biggest learning experience of my career.”
I love it when law firm lawyers:
“Really understand our business and our industry.”
Three things I love about my team’s culture:
“We put our people first, we strive to learn something every day, and we celebrate our victories together.”
One thing I should really change about the way I work:
“My team keeps reminding me not to send emails at all hours!”
One sentence of advice for my 25-year-old self:
“Slow down and enjoy the journey.”
The thing in life I’m most proud of:
“Two teenage kids – and they’re both professional actors!”
Lee Reichert: In His Own Words
The Best of Both Worlds
Many law students want to become in-house lawyers, perhaps to be the GC of a company someday. But in-house jobs are slim pickings for young lawyers, and especially those just graduating from law school. So you have these smart, eager-to-learn new attorneys out there – they want some experience and a well-informed view on in-house practice. Hiring them is affordable, but a company wouldn’t usually hire someone straight out of law school to stay on indefinitely. And it might not be best for their professional development anyway.
So we thought, what if there was a way to experience the best of both worlds, learning strategies and elements of business as an in-house lawyer while also building lasting relationships with outside counsel, right out of law school? That’s how we created our clerkship program – it’s like a judicial clerkship, it runs for a defined period. In our case it’s 18 months. The clerks create a lot of value for Molson Coors – our business partners and legal department staff love them. And when the 18 months is up, these young lawyers are very sought-after because of that experience.
The clerkship program has also allowed us to lead and drive change on diversity, equity and Inclusion (DEI) issues. DEI is a major priority for our company and the outside firms we work with, so we aim to recruit mostly diverse candidates. The opportunity for young diverse lawyers to work and develop relationships with both an in-house legal team and outside counsel is a rarity that I’m proud to be a part of.
From Idea to Execution
When the idea came up, we wondered what reception it would get from in-house counsel, business clients, law firms and the like. We really didn’t get resistance from anyone – everyone at Molson Coors was thrilled about this initiative and saw it as an amazing learning opportunity for dedicated new attorneys. And it brought a sense of innovation or novelty to how we approach our business – a willingness to do things differently.
Our law firms were just as supportive. Our outside counsel have the opportunity to create working relationships with the clerks, and the clerks often receive offers to work at these firms after their clerkships are up. It’s not the usual direction talent travels – from an in-house department to a law firm. I know that law firms really appreciate getting lawyers coming their way who have marketable skills based on their time with Molson Coors as well as a better understanding of how our company and in-house department function. The program also helps the law firms recruit talented diverse attorneys they otherwise would not have gained exposure to.
Now I would be remiss if I didn’t give a huge shout out to my supportive legal team. It takes a commitment from the whole team to make an initiative like this work. The team has to be willing to invest the time, training, and oversight necessary for these young attorneys to succeed – and they have truly delivered.
For the team and the clients, the hard part is sticking to the commitment to let these folks go at the 18 month point. It’s not that they couldn’t come back in the future, but to make the program work long term we believe we need to stick to the commitment up front to make it a great 18-month experience and to send that young lawyer off to learn even more somewhere else. Having transitioned to remote work during the pandemic, we’ve had to temporarily pause the program since most of the magic happens in the training and mentoring that takes place in the office, but as we move back into our offices we are excited to pick back up.
Why This Matters
The program opens the door for diverse law school graduates to experience a series of important opportunities. We can provide exposure to a range of projects and practice areas – contracts, procurement, IT projects, client counseling and policy development. The areas we don’t cover are often touched by our law firms. For example, we rely on our outside firms anytime we had M&A projects or long-term litigation. We try to get the clerks involved in working with the law firms on those things, and that range of practice areas builds their portfolios and gives them a chance to find out what they genuinely like to do.
What really excites me is the impact we’ve had on DEI efforts, both for our team and the DEI journeys of our law firms. Our diverse attorney candidates shine when it comes to making connections within our company and with our outside firms. They’ve had good employment opportunities, and as I said – internally, there are always people who want them to stay. Maybe some of them can migrate back to us in the long run. We would hope that they will come back later in their careers if we are the best career choice for them, but that’s up to them. They’re fantastic people! But it’s also the rewarding part – you see these people succeed and have a great path forward.
Bjarne Tellmann, GSK Consumer Healthcare
Bjarne Tellmann talks about leading the charge in legal department transformation during his time as GC at Pearson PLC along with lessons learned. He walks us through the framework of how to look at change: Hardware, Software, and Constants. Bjarne puts emphasis on digital transformation, explaining that data driven insights are where the true value lies. He also recognizes the human aspect of the journey. As the environment around starts to shift, what behaviors and thinking will be moved forward, and what should be left behind? Bjarne reminds us that the only constant in a major transformation such as this one, is change.
Bjarne Tellmann: Nine Questions
The best thing a GC can do for a client (company executive/manager) is:
“Crystalize legal’s brand proposition and deliver value that is both legal and non-legal in nature.”
One big change in the corporate legal sector by 2025 will be:
“Digital transformation tied to process optimization. There will be many different flavors, but that will be a big theme.”
The hardest thing I’ve ever done professionally was:
“Pearson’s legal department transformation. Particularly the human change aspect – understanding that you have to talk about the why, to bring people along on the journey. And at the end of the day it’s about emotions, not logic.”
I love it when law firm lawyers:
“Ask questions about my business.”
I really dislike it when law firm lawyers:
“Think the element they’re involved in is the only element I am involved in. When lawyers are unable to see the holistic nature of the problem they are trying to solve.”
Three little things I love about my team’s culture:
“We prioritize innovation, we have each other’s backs, and we do the right thing.”
One little thing I should really change about the way I work:
“Arrive on time. ????”
One sentence of advice for my 25-year-old self:
“Best thing about advice: You don’t have to take it.”
Thing in life I’m most proud of:
“My two girls.”
Bjarne Tellmann: In His Own Words
We sat down with Bjarne Tellmann to talk about some of the change initiatives he has led in his years as GC of Pearson PLC, and in his new role as GC of GSK Consumer Products. We also asked how he had time to write an authoritative, 358-page book (Building an Outstanding Legal Team) in the middle of it all.
Here is Bjarne in his own words.
On “Why Change?”
We ran a huge transformation of the legal function at Pearson. So – why do it? The original “why” was strategic and operational. The business model of the company was changing, and legal was the last business unit that had not yet transformed itself to the new environment.
The “why” later became financial. The industry was going through disruption and change – our budget got put under pressure and we were asked to do more with less resources. We needed to find ways to automate what was more routine. This forced us to be more creative and imaginative. Throughout our transformation, the “why” evolved as our understanding of the value proposition changed.
Transformation in Three Parts
There were really three elements of the big change – what I call “hardware,” then “software,” and then the constant factors that run across the whole experience.
Hardware includes the tangible, measurable aspects of the legal department. At Pearson, we first looked at our budget and mapped the internal to external spend ratio. The goal was to lower our total costs. After identifying core risks through a step-by-step process, we reconfigured the structure around the risks. In the end, we were able to bring down fixed costs by 45%. Hardware also included our relationship with internal and external partners. This meant looking at panelizing core areas of work, renegotiating fees, and getting the right partners focused on the right work.
Finally, we wrapped technology around processes. From a contract management center to a transactions support center – the focus was on data driven platforms that can generate insights.
Software refers to the less tangible aspects of the legal department. We looked at the culture of our company as a whole and our legal department in a bottom-up approach. We asked ourselves – What drives behavior in the legal department? After the identifying comes the analyzing – What aspects of behavior do we want to reinforce, which do we want to eliminate, and how?
Constants refers to strategy and, most importantly, change management. We wanted to put in place a course strategy while keeping in mind being preventative and pragmatic. This prompts the question, what do we do that is unique?
On Digital Transformation
Sitting here now and looking back, I realize there are three stages to digital transformation.
1) There are tools and technologies that allow you to be more efficient. This is basic – cutting costs and doing more with less.
2) Optimizing processes and changing how we work. This refers to the whole reconfiguration of how we deliver services. The key to doing this is making a cohesive strategic plan.
3) Then there’s data-driven insights, but you only get there after you’ve got #2 in place. When you do change the way you work and have a strategy, you begin to harvest data from the technology, and when it’s lined up with strategy, that data is really valuable to the business. And those insights are the true value. The thing that keeps on giving forever.
On Creating Value after the Transformation
There is value in freeing up your team to give back to the company, which adds value to the business. Before you were just reacting. A helpful military analogy is when you get to the transformation, you move from regiments and tank divisions waiting for things to happen to a special ops posture. You’ve got a smaller group of skilled, self-driven people that have support from the base when they need it, but they are seeing opportunities and making decisions in a data-driven way.
On Easy Stuff, Hard Stuff, and Best Stuff
I would say the easiest part of the transformation was E-billing. We used Serengeti and almost overnight had 10% savings in cost.
The hardest part of the process was managing people through the change. Something unexpected though was the virtuous cycle of the transformation. The way to think about it is as an evolutionary process, rather than a revolution.
The best benefit of this entire journey was the analytics and insights gained from that. That’s a catalyst for innovation, which is the lifeblood of an organization.
Wanji Walcott, Discover Financial Services
In her first year as GC of Discover, Wanji Walcott set clear new expectations for the department, company, and community. She committed the department to five hours of pro bono work per lawyer and tailored new pro bono opportunities for her lawyers; extended the Mansfield Rule to the staffing of major internal projects; narrowed and focused key performance indicators (KPIs) and gave KPIs a more central role in department management; and initiated a comprehensive review of over 100 law firm relationships while instituting budgeting protocols to forecast and manage costs more effectively in all matters.
Wanji Walcott: Nine Questions
We begin with nine “fill in the blanks” with Wanji, and then turn to some of the big changes she has initiated since taking on the GC role at Discover.
1. The best thing a GC can do for a client (company executive/manager) is ___________
Just make their life easier. For my boss, or the Board of Directors, the best thing I can do is say “I’ve got this – don’t worry about it.”
2. One big change in the corporate legal sector by 2025 will be ___________
AI. We’ll be automating a lot more tasks that are currently done by humans.
3. The hardest thing I’ve ever done professionally was ___________
Shifting to supporting a business unit from serving a functional area.
4. I love it when law firm lawyers ___________
Provide me with unsolicited insights that are highly relevant to my business.
5. I really dislike it when law firm lawyers ___________
Come to me with an eye towards helping themselves rather than helping me. (Helping me will help them – a high tide floats all boats.)
6. Three little things I love about my team’s culture
My team wants to do the right things, they are very focused on succeeding and winning, and they like to have fun together.
7. One little thing I should really change about the way I work
I have to put more daylight into my schedule – it’s back-to-back-to-back. I need to find more opportunities to shift things to other people.
8. One sentence of advice for my 25-year-old self: ____________
Relationships are everything. Focus on having good relationships and nurturing those relationships.
9. The thing in life I’m most proud of.
I’m most proud of my children. They are happy and pursuing what they want to pursue.
Wanji Walcott: In Her Own Words
We sat down with Wanji Walcott to discuss her leadership as EVP and Chief Legal Officer of Discover Financial Services. (Previously, Wanji served as SVP and General Counsel of PayPal, and prior to that she was SVP and Managing Counsel at American Express.)
Here is Wanji in her own words.
On Key Performance Indicators
KPIs are so important for leading change. You can see how you’re doing: speed, quality and value. So we use that KPI data as a basis to improve our quality of work, drive efficiency, to measure how we’re doing. It shows us where we need to change.
It’s not easy. At my prior company we struggled to come up with KPIs, and at Discover we had so many. We needed a balance, so we asked, “Is this data that people are using?” If not, we eliminated it. That got the dashboard where it needed to be.
On Managing Law Firms
We’re much more disciplined and focused now in how we create those key firm relationships. We’ve done a few things.
First, we were using too many firms. We’re working with a very careful methodology to get that done – with AdvanceLaw, but of course it’s tailored to what we need at Discover. That’s getting the right resources in place.
Then we’ve really focused on matter budgets. Having more discipline by creating budgets out front helps to make sure we are getting the best results at the right costs. Now we require a budget on every matter we open. When we drive that conversation up front, we get more visibility and control over the cost of matters.
Sometimes a lawyer will tell me, “I can’t do a budget – I don’t know yet.” But I don’t want lawyers working on a matter without a plan, and a budget is a plan.
On Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
For DEI we’re asking, “How we can make Discover an employer of choice?” It’s the only way to get the very best people across the board.
We follow the Mansfield Rule for job openings, of course. But then we applied the Mansfield Rule to major internal initiatives. We’re making sure that those project teams are inclusive. Too often leaders just turn to “the usual suspects” for big projects. We’re giving more opportunity for people across the department to get into high impact, high visibility initiatives.
On Discover’s Pro Bono Work
So many people are in need of quality legal services, and we’re all fortunate to be educated and in a position to help. So I set a requirement for at least five hours of pro bono work in our department – to set a marker that it’s something we do at Discover.
Then in 2020 it got harder to do some of that pro bono work – we had to pivot to find opportunities to do that work from home, so we put a survey out to the department to see where the interests were so we could tailor to those interests.
To kick off the pro bono focus, we broke into groups of four and logged onto the ABA’s Free Legal Answers portal – it’s a question bank where qualifying people who need legal help can submit a question. Each group worked together to draft a response and include links to additional resources. That was part of a legal department retreat, and we got good feedback – it went pretty well.
Pro bono is really part of the employer of choice approach. Doing pro bono work benefits the people on the receiving end of the advice, and it benefits the people providing the advice. A grateful response from someone who couldn’t otherwise afford legal services is amazing. I’ve been doing pro bono for 25+ years and there is no greater feeling.