General Counsel Q&A: Structuring Our Legal Department to Meet Changing Business Needs Is Critical, Says Mark Jaeger, GC of Jockey International, Inc.

Topics: Client Relations, Corporate Legal, Data Analytics, Efficiency, Leadership, Practical Law, Q&A Interviews, Thomson Reuters

GCs

Mark Jaeger, Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of Jockey International, Inc., recently spoke with Thomson Reuters’ Practical Law The Journal: Transactions & Business (PLJ) about the legal department’s structure, recent technology, and efficiency kick.

PLJ: How is the legal function structured?

Jaeger: We structure the legal department to meet changing business needs. Currently, we have a marketing and intellectual property team led by an associate general counsel with a two-person support team, which includes a paralegal handling trademarks and a marketing assistant reviewing consumer marketing and advertising copy. We also have a contracts administration team led by the contracts counsel, who is supported by an administrator.

As general counsel, I focus on global trade, licensing, real estate, compliance, and employment matters. I am supported by a lease administrator for real estate matters and a legal assistant for licensing matters. In addition to the legal staff, we have a compliance team that reports to me. This team focuses on customs, trade, and factory compliance, and, in particular, on the working conditions in factories where Jockey products are made.

GCs

Mark Jaeger, Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of Jockey International, Inc.

Given that we are a small department, the attorneys and the support team are cross-trained and capable of switching to higher priorities on short notice.

PLJ: Are there any innovative ideas the legal department has adopted to further its goals?

Jaeger: The legal department has been on a technology and efficiency kick for the past three years. We added a legal billing and matter management solution, upgraded our trademark management solution, and, most recently, began utilizing a new solution for equipment and property lease administration. These are all Software as a Service and cloud-based tools. Our contracts counsel took an interest in legal operations and led several of these projects, in addition to handling contracts administration.

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

Jaeger:

  1. Possess subject matter expertise. In-house counsel and, in particular, general counsels, often have breadth across a range of subject matters, as well as business acumen, but rely on outside counsel for their depth of knowledge and ability to scale up to solve a legal problem.
  2. Appreciate the economics of our relationship. A law firm must be able to demonstrate how engaging that firm will generate a return on our investment.
  3. Set itself apart from competitors. Avoid charging us for short calls on routine matters or offer flat rates for bulk work. We also expect diverse talent among the leadership of all practice areas.

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

Jaeger: My fantasy job would be a baseball broadcaster, but my practical alternative would be to get on the other side of the table as a businessperson making the calls and taking the advice.

PLJ: What book has influenced you the most?

Jaeger: The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology by Ray Kurzweil has been particularly influential and thought provoking for me. Two of my favorite books are Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

PLJ: What advice would you give to a prospective General Counsel?

Jaeger: Get comfortable with your gut instincts, because you rarely will have the time and resources to achieve certainty. Also, as William Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Attorneys, in particular, need to get to the point.


Read the full interview in the June/July 2019 issue of Practical Law The Journal: Transactions & Business.

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