General Counsel Q&A: Law Firms Need to “Think and Act Like Entrepreneurs,” Says Mark A. Smolik of DHL Supply Chain Americas

Topics: Business Development & Marketing Blog Posts, Client Relations, Corporate Legal, Legal Operations, Practical Law, Process Management

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Mark A. Smolik, Chief Legal & Compliance Officer of DHL Supply Chain Americas, recently spoke with Thomson Reuters’ Practical Law The Journal: Transactions & Business (PLJ) about his law department’s top areas of focus and what law firms need to do to impress him.

PLJ: What are the top goals or areas of focus for the law department? Are there any innovative ideas the law department has adopted to further its goals?

Mark A. Smolik: Our top goals include identifying regulatory and legal trends that have an impact on our business, working collaboratively with other departments and business leaders to mitigate risks, and ensuring that the culture of our department is one that deeply respects all of our associates and provides plenty of career advancement opportunities.

The businesses we serve work extraordinarily hard to service our customers, meet their operating and financial objectives, and generate sufficient revenue to fund overhead functions such as ours. This is the reason we run our department like a business. We likewise work hard to ensure we are fiscally prudent and accountable for every dollar we spend and that we deliver meaningful and measurable value to the organization.

How does the law department avoid being perceived as the “office of no” while still ensuring it helps the client avoid liability?

Several years ago, our department adopted the operating theme “Align, Enable, Simplify” to represent everything we do and what we strive for day in, day out. We work hard to align with the business and truly understand their strategic objectives and goals. We are a team of enablers and do what it takes to help the business achieve those objectives. Finally, we provide advice in plain English, simplifying the complexity that is inevitable given the many practice areas we cover and countries in which we operate.

What three things does a law firm need to do to impress you?

  1. Think and act like entrepreneurs, just like we do. If you do not know what that means, ask!
  2. Offer proactive, pragmatic advice in terms easily understood.
  3. Understand that you operate in a hypercompetitive environment. Provide uncompromising, quality service at a price point that reflects that environment. Follow up on your work, communicate often, and do not assume we will call you. If you want our work, you must constantly earn it.

If not an attorney, what would you wish to be?

A full-time woodworker. I enjoy creating and building furniture out of trees I harvest.

Smolik

Mark A. Smolik, Chief Legal & Compliance Officer of DHL Supply Chain Americas

What book has influenced you the most?

I have read many books over the years, so it is hard to point to just one. The book I am currently reading is On Fire: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life by John O’Leary. It is a fascinating read about the author’s personal struggle with tragedy and how he overcame the many challenges in life that followed.

What is the best career advice you have ever received?

Never break a promise. Mean what you say and do what you say, when you say you are going to do it.


Read the full interview in the June issue of Practical Law The Journal: Transactions & Business.

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