What is the secret sauce for becoming a general counsel? What are the special ingredients? As a GC/in-house counsel recruiter for Major, Lindsey & Africa (MLA), I have spent many years working with candidates and clients on understanding and mastering the recipe for success. And as a member of the board of directors of the Minority In-House Counsel Association (MIHCA, pronounced "MEE-cah") and a leader of MIHCA's programming committee, I have had the opportunity to help bring together successful general counsel from across the country at MIHCA's annual conferences to approach this issue from various creative perspectives. This has included panel discussions featuring many minority GCs that MLA has mentored and/or placed over the years.
Focused on fostering relationship-building and EQ skills enhancement, the purpose of MIHCA is to promote the professional development, networking and career advancement of minority in-house counsel; to enable minority in-house counsel to recruit other lawyers of color; and to further increase diversity in the legal profession—especially in corporations.
Here are the links to some LinkedIn articles that my fellow MLA recruiters and I published in connection with our participation in last year’s 2016 MIHCA conference:
The 2016 MIHCA conference featured a special lunchtime general counsel discussion between siblings Paula Boggs (former GC of Starbucks) and Cornell Boggs (GC of Toys R Us) to explore what conditions in their upbringing helped produce such excellence in them.
This year, amongst other panel discussions, the MIHCA conference in Chicago on October 24, 2017, will feature a special lunchtime discussion probing the unique set of circumstances that contributed to so many members of Cox Enterprises General Counsel Juliette Pryor’s previous legal team reaching additional heights in their in-house careers.
The members of this panel, “Maximizing Relationships, Inspiring Success, Honing Skills, Collaborating on Opportunities and Activating Careers,”
exemplify the guiding principles of MIHCA and the reason our organization exists:
- Luis Avila, Former Interim General Counsel & Chief Compliance Officer, and former AGC at US Foods
- Dorothy Capers, General Counsel of National Express
- Juliette Pryor, General Counsel of Cox Enterprises
- Gail Sharps Myers, General Counsel of Snyder’s Lance
- Jim Pyle, VP, Associate General Counsel and Assistant Secretary at Cars.com
- Wendy Webb Williams, General Counsel, IFCN, North America & Europe, Reckitt Benckiser
- Moderated by Ryan Whitacre, Managing Director at Major, Lindsey & Africa
Here is a preview of the insights that our panelists will share:
“Working for Juliette made it very clear to me that having a mentor, coach and sponsor are all necessary in order to advance in senior management roles. Fortunately for those of us that worked for her at US Foods, she expertly played one or all of those roles at any one time.” -Luis Avila
“Working for US Foods taught me that as a lawyer you are not just a legal head for the company but, most importantly, a business partner. Juliette would say, ‘The business can always hire a lawyer, but your value add comes from understanding the business and helping them meet their goals.’ This has become a cornerstone for my development as a lawyer and a golden nugget that I task my team with on a daily basis.” -Dorothy Capers
“Juliette exemplified a number of the leadership qualities that I try to emulate in both my professional and personal life— trust in your partners and colleagues, strive to innovate, be an excellent communicator, and have a sense of humor, humility, and empathy in everything you do.” -Jim Pyle
“It was the most incredible growth experience of my entire career.” -Gail Sharps Myers
“Working at US Foods was like working at a $22b start-up, with both the fast pace and heart palpitations. But when Juliette says, ‘Tell me more,’ you’d better be prepared to go three layers deep on the law, on how it affects the business and how it drives toward the goals of the company. Because you are never, ever, just the lawyer. You are a business partner with legal expertise. This perspective has proven invaluable in meeting the needs of the company and gaining the trust and respect of the business.” -Wendy Webb Williams
“US Foods’ legal department under Juliette Pryor was a unique time and place. What drew me—and, I suspect, others—was the opportunity to work with someone whose passion for diversity and inclusion was evidenced by her direct action in surrounding herself with a dynamic set of individuals from all walks. As we see time and again, it takes courage to practice what you preach, and Juliette did just that at US Foods by seeking out and bringing on diverse talent, nurturing them and ultimately launching them on to their next destination. This panel is the tangible result of her courage: These are those same dynamic individuals who have since won platforms of their own from which they’re carrying on the example and legacy set by Juliette.” -Ryan Whitacre
What was in the secret sauce that Juliette Pryor served up that helped nurture such amazing GCs and senior in-house counsel? I look forward to finding out during lunch at the MIHCA conference in Chicago on October 24— and hope you do, too. Bon Appétit!
Please visit www.mymihca.org for more information and to register for the 2017 MIHCA conference.