We continue our monthly feature, “Upfront & Personal”, a column created by Rose Ors that brings “the person behind the title” to the forefront in interviews with some of the most influential members of the legal community.
Lee Reichert, Chief Legal & Corporate Affairs Officer at Molson Coors, recently spoke with Ms. Ors, the CEO and Founder of ClientSmart, about finding personal reward in your work, allowing for failure, and finding passion in cooking.
Rose Ors: How would your friends and colleagues describe you?
Lee Reichert: I think my friends would describe me as energetic, passionate, and light-hearted. I strive in both my personal and professional roles to strike a healthy balance between getting things done and having fun while doing them. I am fortunate to work in the beer industry where people are not quite as buttoned up as some other industries.
Rose Ors: What life moments have defined you?
Lee Reichert: I spent my junior year in college in London and traveled extensively around Europe. It was my first trip abroad and it opened my eyes and my world. Personally, the trip cemented my love for travel. Professionally, it influenced my interest in working on international deals.
Rose Ors: How did living abroad change you?
Lee Reichert: The most profound impact on me was understanding that different cultures
approach things differently, yet, in spite of the differences, we all have fundamental human needs and traits. Our differences increased my ability to understand and be open to diverse viewpoints. Our commonality increased my sense of empathy.
Rose Ors: What do you find most personally rewarding about your work?
Lee Reichert: What I really enjoy is helping professionally advance the individuals on my team. It is what I loved doing in private practice and now at Molson Coors. Nothing makes me happier than seeing people on my team succeed not just in projects that they’re working on but also succeed professionally whether it is within our team or on their next adventure.
Rose Ors: How do you approach your role as mentor and coach?
Lee Reichert: I first try to understand the career aspirations of each member of the team. I then look for opportunities for them to develop professionally so they can attain the skills necessary to reach their individual desires. My goal is to create a safe space for everyone to learn. Part of learning is failing, so I also work hard to create an environment where failure is part of the learning equation.
Rose Ors: How do you foster the level of trust necessary for them to feel comfortable failing?
Lee Reichert: I think it comes down to the culture. Lawyers tend to be perfectionists. We come to this profession with the view that everything you do has to be perfect. But no one can meet that standard. So, I have always been intentional about establishing a culture of trust. My team knows I have their back. They also know that what I look for is for them to fail fast, learn from any of their failures, and apply the lessons-learned in a way that next time they iterate better. It is a journey.
Rose Ors: What is your favorite pastime?
Lee Reichert: Cooking is a passion, which I share with my family. We cook and watch all kinds of cooking competition shows together. For me, cooking is a creative outlet that is both energizing and relaxing. I also love the results. Eating a great home-cooked meal and pairing it with a nice beer is a great way to relax.
Rose Ors: What got you interested in the culinary arts?
Lee Reichert: When I was a kid my Italian-born great grandmother taught me how to make homemade pasta and meatballs. I was hooked.
Rose Ors: What person, living or dead, would you be thrilled to have over for dinner?
Lee Reichert: I was a history major in college and part of what I studied in London was European history. Since college, I have had an interest in learning more about what motivated Richard III when he sequestered 12-year-old Edward V and his younger brother in the Tower of London.
As depicted by Shakespeare, Richard was power-hungry and lost no time in ridding himself of anyone who might prevent him from becoming king, including his young nephews. However, Shakespeare’s account continues to be widely debated.
Rose Ors: What would you would ask him?
Lee Reichert: Why did he want to become king? Was he motivated by personal ambition or by duty? What happened to Edward V and his half-brother? Were they murdered?
It would be fascinating to spend an evening understanding both the man and the intrigue behind his ascension to the throne. And, of course, it would be incredible to clearly answer questions that have been subject to great historical debate.
Rose Ors: Now for the final question — What advice would you give to a newly appointed general counsel?
Lee Reichert: As the title confers, as General Counsel you are the general counselor for the company. As such you are responsible for driving and leading a strong legal team. But today, the expectation is much higher and far broader. Today, you are expected to be a business leader in the same way as the chief financial officer or the chief strategy officer is a business leader. As a business leader you interact with the board. You help set strategy for the business. You help drive business solutions.
To fulfill the role well, you need to really understand how the business operates. In addition to understanding the numbers, you need to leave your desk and go where your clients and business partners operate. So, for example, at Molson Coors, I encourage our legal team to ride the trucks with our distributors or spend the day visiting the breweries. I ask the same of our outside law firms.
The key is to spend time with the right people in the business in order for them to truly understand the drivers of the business. After all, we exist to help our stakeholders succeed in an increasingly complex and competitive environment and remain the first choice for our customers and consumers.