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MICHELLE BROWDY
General counsel and senior vice-president of legal and regulatory affairs
IBM

IBM has long been known for developing employees’ skills, and since taking over the general counsel role in 2015, Ms Browdy has strengthened this tradition. Through new hires, training and workshops that bring together team members spread across the globe, she has ensured that IBM’s lawyers are versed in data rights and privacy, medical device regulations and a range of emerging legal fields that support its artificial intelligence healthcare business, Watson Health.

Lawyers also use their legal industry and process knowledge to assist with product development. The team is helping to train Watson cognitive computing applications for the law, including its Outside Counsel Insights service.

EVE BURTON
Senior vice-president and general counsel
Hearst Corporation

Ms Burton leads a diverse, high-energy team at the media and broadcasting company, where she manages the legal services of more than 360 Hearst businesses worldwide. Ms Burton has built a highly respected team that manages 85 per cent of the business’s legal work in-house. She is leading the development of Charlotte, a machine learning tool that will help the team with complex litigation and M&A deals, and has founded HearstLab, an incubator for businesses led by women. She heads Hearst’s efforts to protect journalists and freedom of speech worldwide.

She says: “‘A lot of people said to me that you can get smart and trained people, but they won’t be nice or ethical. We need people that meet all of these criteria.”

SABINE CHALMERS
Chief legal officer
Anheuser-Busch InBev

Ms Chalmers has overseen some of the largest and most complex corporate mergers in the past two decades. She joined InBev as chief legal officer in 2005, and helped complete the integration of Interbrew and Ambev to form the world’s largest brewer. InBev acquired Anheuser-Busch in a $52bn deal in 2008 and, more recently, SABMiller for more than $100bn in 2016. Ms Chalmers predicts that future general counsel will need to be “even more adept generalists . . . with superior legal, business, political, financial, leadership and technological skills”. She leaves her role later this year to focus on charitable work.

She says: “I have a strong belief that industries that have an employee base that reflects the diversity of its consumer base will drive superior results.”

RICARDO CORTÉS-MONROY
Chief legal officer and group general counsel
Nestlé

Mr Cortés-Monroy began his legal career with Nestlé more than 30 years ago. He was previously general counsel for the Latin America and Caribbean region, and brings to the role valuable experience of how business, regulators and deals work in emerging markets. Since taking on the group GC role in 2011, Mr Cortés-Monroy’s role has expanded as regulation, risk and the importance of corporate sustainability and responsibility have increased. He describes his role as being an “ethical business enabler”.

He says: “[The general counsel of the future will be] like an Olympic decathlete — maybe not a world record athlete in any of the 10 disciplines, but very good at all of them. And digital savvy.”

REGGIE DAVIS
Chief legal officer and general counsel
DocuSign

After roles at Yahoo and gaming company Zynga, Mr Davis is providing cross-functional support and leading efforts to engage new clients at DocuSign. His team train other in-house legal departments in the use and application of DocuSign’s electronic signature technology. This enables them to guide and manage the digital transformation process within their own businesses. Mr Davis has overseen the development of the xDTM standard for digital transactions, ensuring they meet privacy and data security concerns.

Keith Krach, chairman of DocuSign, says: “He never loses his cool, he is very systematic, he can see things from all different angles . . . A few centuries ago, he would’ve been a King Arthur.”

MAAKIE DE BIE
General counsel
Royal Mail Group

Ms de Bie joined Royal Mail after its privatisation in 2013 and was given the task of helping to change the way the legal team operates. While she has improved processes and brought greater discipline to spending, business colleagues say her greatest contribution has been to transform the culture of the legal department. With a strong vision and inclusive leadership style, Ms de Bie has created an environment where lawyers have a strong sense of purpose. She has learnt and adopted best practices from other industries and businesses.

She says: “[The GC of the future will be] a connected business leader with high integrity and sound judgment, whose effectiveness depends as much on their soft skills as their technical expertise.”

ALEX DIMITRIEF
Senior vice-president and general counsel
General Electric

While general counsel of GE Capital, the financial services arm of US conglomerate General Electric, Mr Dimitrief helped the parent group’s transformation through a series of deals that included selling GE Capital in 2015. Involving more than 400 transactions, it was one of the largest and most complex corporate reorganisations. Celebrated as both a lawyer and a leader, it was little surprise to see him take the top legal role at GE that year. He now manages a legal team that is the size of a large global law firm.

At GE, Mr Dimitrief follows some of the profession’s best-known general counsel. He is making his own mark by embracing technology, different organisational structures and new ways of working with outside law firms.

ELLEN FITZSIMMONS
Executive vice-president, general counsel and corporate secretary
CSX Corporation

CSX was faced with more than 5,000 pending claims regarding incidents across the transportation company’s 21,000 miles of track in the early 2000s. Ms Fitzsimmons led a successful litigation strategy to fight back against the high proportion of frivolous claims, while also starting an initiative to build trust with communities and improve safety where CSX operates. Funds previously dedicated to litigation are now spent on improving safety standards and lobbying for tort and regulatory reform. In 2013 she led the first successful US civil case in which a jury found attorneys liable under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act for making fraudulent claims.

CARMEN KAN
General counsel
Bank of China (Hong Kong)

Ms Kan joined the bank in 2010 when Hong Kong retail investors were protesting on the streets over lost investments in minibonds related to the collapse of Lehman Brothers. She helped negotiate a deal with regulators and creditors and won the trust of the bank’s senior management. In 2015 her team created the legal structures to allow the bank to launch the first renminbi-denominated “panda” bonds. More recently, she brought the legal, compliance and operational risk teams together to improve oversight and management of risk.

Ann Kung, deputy chief executive, Bank of China (Hong Kong), says: “Our general counsel’s understanding of issues, proactiveness to address problems, courage to give unambiguous opinions, are key contributions [to our competitive advantage].”

BRIAN LEVEY
Chief financial officer and general counsel
Upwork

At online freelancing platform Upwork, Mr Levey is able to “connect the dots” across the business. He is described by colleagues as a caring leader who can identify business blind spots.

After 13 years in a global leadership role at eBay, Mr Levey joined oDesk in 2013, overseeing the merger with Elance to form Upwork. His role spans finance, HR, legal and government affairs, where he fosters collaborations with academics and policymakers on the future of work. He argues that the profession can help businesses spread employment beyond urban centres.

He says: “It’s my mindset that ‘beliefs are hypotheses to be tested, not treasures to be protected’.”

REBECCA LIM
Chief compliance officer and group general counsel
Westpac

Appointed group general counsel in 2011, Ms Lim added the chief compliance role in 2013 and a position on the executive team last year. In the past five years her team has supported the Australian banking group’s move into digital business at a time of unprecedented regulatory scrutiny. Ms Lim is transforming how the company’s lawyers work by hiring new people with technological and consulting experience, teaching lawyers to code, and a programme in which lawyers are sent to bank branches to see their advice implemented.

She says: “The external environment is changing, our customers are changing, and the whole business is changing, so legal also needs to change”

SIOBHAN MORIARTY
General counsel
Diageo

When she took over as group general counsel in 2013, Ms Moriarty reorganised the legal department to match the business lines introduced by Diageo’s new chief executive.

Ms Moriarty changed the way intellectual property was managed, and has helped to navigate complex regulations to allow Diageo’s expansion in developing markets such as Brazil and Nigeria. Protecting corporate reputation is a priority and Ms Moriarty continues to build “a risk-aware culture in which compliance is seen not as a straitjacket, but as a potential enabler of competitive advantage”.

Ivan Menezes, Diageo’s chief executive, says: She gives the business a competitive advantage by “seizing opportunities and managing risk in a volatile, ever-changing world”.

THOMAS SABATINO
Executive vice-president, and general counsel
Aetna

A respected advocate for diversity, Mr Sabatino has left each of his previous companies more diverse and inclusive — and the legal team more business-centric. He believes that organisations with people from diverse backgrounds are stronger, and he has previously advocated for change at Hertz, Walgreens and United Airlines. He also oversees the corporate secretary and compliance teams at the health insurance company, and works to keep pace with changing regulations and to find new ways to use data while protecting privacy.

He says: “When I hire firms, I look more closely at the team. Who is getting the financial credit? I want firms to share more, if they share credit, then there is a more inclusive group.”

JOHN SCHULTZ
Executive president, general counsel and corporate secretary
Hewlett Packard Enterprise

In 2016, Hewlett Packard Enterprise won the FT’s award for most innovative in-house legal team in Europe. This recognised the complexity of the global team’s task in splitting HP into two new Fortune 50 companies. Much of the credit for the deal’s success is down to Mr Schultz. The decision to lead the transaction in-house was possible because of his strategy of building in-house legal capability, promoting internally and investing in training. Mr Schultz was also recognised for assembling lawyers from four rival law firms to collaborate on HP’s Itanium-chip legal battle with Oracle.

He says: “[Building a legal team is about] being talent makers, rather than talent takers.”

DAWN SMITH
Chief legal officer
McAfee

Before joining McAfee in 2017, Ms Smith led the VMware legal team that won the FT’s most innovative in-house legal team award for North America in 2016. The award recognised that she had built a legal department that runs like an operational business unit. She created a legal operations role and collected data and metrics that allowed the legal team to demonstrate clearly the value that its innovations delivered. Her first career was as a US naval officer, where her success helped set a path for other women, and she continues to be an advocate for diversity and inclusion.

She says: “GCs need to transform the way lawyers deliver legal services to the business and drive the culture change necessary to achieve more diversity in the business of law.”

ROCHAEL SOPER ADRANLY
General counsel
Ideo

Ms Adranly’s role at the Silicon Valley-based design business is unusual in that she spends much of her time advising clients.

Ideo helps organisations to apply “design thinking” — using design principles as a framework for innovation — so it seems obvious that Ms Adranly would apply the approach to the legal team’s operations. This transformed how the rest of Ideo works with its own lawyers. Ms Adranly also helps other companies’ legal teams and law firms to apply design principles. She is seen by her chief executive as a driver of innovation within the business.

She says: “Today’s general counsel need to be both business-minded and human-centred. This means . . . having a clear awareness that legal problems are human problems.”

RITVA SOTAMAA
Chief legal officer
Unilever

Ms Sotamaa brings “a global mindset and capability” to the consumer goods multinational’s operations and its growth in highly competitive and risky business environments, says Paul Polman, Unilever’s chief executive. The business is undergoing rapid digitisation, while at the same time social media have the potential for a significant impact on Unilever’s reputation. Ms Sotamaa is called upon to make complex decisions at speed. The culture of transparency and trust she helped create is critical to Unilever’s ability to grow in a sustainable way.

She says: “I see my role as a business leader, like any other leader in Unilever, with my chief executive having delegated me a part of the business to run.”

LAURA STEIN
Executive vice-president and general counsel
The Clorox Company

Recognised as a top legal strategist and a champion of diversity, Ms Stein is one of North America’s most influential law professionals. She sits on legal and humanitarian boards and leads a team often described as creative professionals with immense legal skill and the ability to look ahead. Under Ms Stein’s leadership, the team is credited with giving the company a competitive advantage, playing a critical role in enabling innovation programmes and product diversification. Ms Stein has supported women and minorities in entering the profession and taking senior roles.

She says: Lawyers must “collaborate together and with other leaders in our profession to increase access to justice, diversity and inclusion, and the rule of law”.

CHRISTOPHER STEPHENS
General counsel
Asian Development Bank

When Mr Stephens took on his first in-house role at the Asian Development Bank in 2012, he brought a fresh perspective. The bank had decided that a proposed merger with the Asian Development Fund was impossible — until Mr Stephens found a solution that allowed the merger to go ahead. The bank was able to expand its operations and dramatically increase its capital and ability to provide assistance to the poorest countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

He says: “The disruptive economy is demanding products and services that are bespoke, faster and more flexible. Senior management — including the general counsel — has to force itself to take time, sequestered from the day-to-day administration of their jobs, to think ‘bigly’.”

MARIA VARSELLONA
Chief legal officer
Nokia

Following the sale of its mobile devices business, Ms Varsellona has been a force in Nokia’s growth and reinvention over the past five years. She played a leading role in talks to buy Alcatel-Lucent in 2015 to create a new global business in the internet and telecommunications industry. Her team proposed a deal structure that allowed the two businesses to start integrating operations earlier than expected, delivering certainty and value to the business and its customers. By setting up a legal process unit to handle the more routine legal work, Ms Varsellona has ensured that lawyers have a more strategic and influential role.

She says: “The most important change has been making the legal team part of the business leadership.”

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.