Cathy Kilbane is continuing her in-house creative streak: The new general counsel of The Sherwin-Williams Company recently landed at the paint-maker from greeting card firm American Greetings Corporation, where she served as general counsel for nine years.
The switch is in keeping with Kilbane's lawyering palette. She's long been "hooked on liking to work with companies that have a strong culture of creativity and innovation," she tells CorpCounsel.com.
Kilbane replaces Lou Stellato, who retired at the end of 2012 after 31 years with the company.
Both Sherwin-Williams and American Greetings are based in Kilbane's hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, where she attended Case Western Reserve University as an undergrad and earned her J.D. from the university's school of law.
Kilbane went on to join BakerHostetler's Cleveland office, where she worked for 16 years, most recently as a partner in the corporate group.
"I worked with a lot of companies for whom intellectual property, technology, and brand equity were important revenue drivers," she says of her time with the firm.
That's where she got early lessons in the value attorneys bring to creative "intangibles."
"As a lawyer, you can give [creators] that sense of ownership by obtaining a patent or a trademark or a copyright, or licensing that and creating a revenue stream from it," Kilbane says.
Intellectual property was a core focus for Kilbane at American Greetings, which, in addition to its namesake cards for birthdays and other occasions, also owns the Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake, as well as Recycled Paper Greetings and Papyrus, two "social expressions" lines (to borrow the industry lingo).
The American Greetings legal department often worked with writers and artists, Kilbane says. In-house lawyers also listened to what the business needed in order to help facilitate high consumer demand for new products.