After fielding the right team, we then proceeded to build out and implement the legal processes and documents necessary to help HD Supply over-perform in the marketplace. Our team draws experience not only from private practice, but also from many other significant in-house legal teams. A goal of ours has always been to eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy, to redirect the time saved to focus on customer responsiveness, and to ensure delivery of the best legal product possible. Among other accomplishments, we have streamlined our contracts and enhanced our sales training.
We have also digitized our contracting processes. Virtually all of our transactional work is done in-house, with the exception of large M&A transactions. For our large M&A transactions, we complement our in-house team with outside counsel. Handling most of our work in-house allows us to provide not only timely and responsive legal support, but the insight that only a true insider can provide. Additionally, we have implemented a litigation management system that has been very helpful in streamlining and managing our litigation matters.
Do you use contract automation software?
Because we have seven lines of business and one Canadian operation across a variety of industries, our contracting scope and processes are varied. However, our lines of business and functions do use contract automation software. This software helps on a number of levels, including execution flow, contract maintenance and storage.
Additionally, the process of implementation has provided the added benefit of allowing us to re-evaluate our contracting processes to ensure that our overall contracting process is workable and efficient. Contract automation is an ongoing process that I anticipate will continue to evolve.
The construction industry has taken a hit the last few years. Has the legal department had to adjust?
The construction industry has indeed been challenged over the last four to five years. Fortunately, I work at a company where over-performing is what we do, so we've been fortunate to grow faster than our industry even during the downturn. An important component of over-performing is to spend and invest wisely. The legal department has always been careful not to grow faster than necessary, even during the upturns.
Equally as important, however, has been our ability to identify and support growth and savings opportunities. For instance, the legal department has been instrumental in renegotiating agreements with landlords and suppliers. These renegotiated agreements have helped us be more responsive to our customers, which ultimately benefits not only our customers but also HD Supply, our stakeholders and everyone else down our supply chain. The good news is we have found that almost every situation can result in a win-win; it just takes hard work and creativity to get there.
What are the biggest legal challenges a major corporation faces in dealing with Latin America?
Latin America provides excellent growth opportunities for our business. I've done business involving Latin America for almost two decades now and I've always considered it a highly professional environment. Having said that, like doing business anywhere, you need to make sure your compliance environment is not compromised in any way and that you enter the market in a way that allows you to maximize potential benefits.
At other points in my career, I have heard people speculate that it is acceptable to do business differently overseas, and perhaps run it in a way that might compromise compliance efforts. I vehemently disagree, and I think professionals overseas would disagree too. I've also been fortunate to work for companies and leadership that has always required absolute compliance.
My best advice is to tenaciously pursue business, but never compromise integrity, even in the rare circumstances where it might cost you a deal. Working hard, being in a position to offer the best products at competitive prices, and demonstrating a clear and unwavering commitment to integrity is not only your only option, but in the long run it will prove to be the winning strategy not only in Latin America but everywhere you do business.
What do you see as big legal challenges or future issues in complex commercial and supply chain transactions?
I believe future legal challenges and issues will not only be plentiful, but varied, which is perhaps good news for lawyers. Our growing regulatory environment, both at home and abroad, shows no sign of letting up, and this creates challenges not only in staying abreast of developments, but also operationalizing compliance.