To some people, corporate giants often found on the Fortune 500 list, and leaders of globalization, are greedy and baneful institutions of capitalism. Critics often argue that these corporations have too much financial power and that they exploit consumers and workers. In recent years we’ve seen the results of “too big to fail” and “trickle down economics.” I will revisit some of these ideas in other posts. But this post is about opportunity and empowerment.
I always tell people I grew up in big corporate. Somehow I was a licensed attorney at 24 years old. I was serious about law school success and had taken the bar early, joined the law review, worked in virtually every clinic the law school offered and clerked at the appellate court. As I entered my profession I discovered I fit in the business world as opposed to than litigating law firms.
Multi-stakeholder Deal Making
My first experience inside big business was when I was hired to negotiate the contracts for a billion dollar EPC (engineering procurement and construction) project. Obviously this was a huge project and the business folks kept me close as they helped me understand the commercial aspects of the deal and I outlined the legal obligations and liabilities would relate. To be effective I needed to capture the priorities of executives, engineers, financial controls, senior legal counsel, and advocate for them as I structured the agreements with suppliers and contractors.
From there I joined a corporate legal department for a larger international company that needed help catching up from a period of massive growth. There were literally hundreds of contracts stacked on my would-be desk, and a brand new corporate risk management policy that needed implementation (by me, obviously). Many years later I would accept a similar role with a Fortune 100 technology corporation in Austin, Texas.
Between those 3 roles I spent 7 years in big corporate. Those years allowed me to be mentored by genius lawyers and business executives. They offered me financial stability, which I certainly appreciated. In the end, I discovered I'm fueled by variety and creativity, and It turns out I am an entrepreneur myself. So moving into private practice made a lot of sense (and generated a lot more happiness).
Corporate Opportunity, Large and Small Impacts
When I think about the financial power of big corporations, I see opportunity: to create jobs, to allow people resources and access to education, food, medicine and infrastructure, and technology. The US census estimates that $60M Americans have been provided for by big corporations, about ½ of the US workforce.
As an entrepreneur, I’m also fascinated by smaller enterprises. I was driven to start my own law firm by innovation and creativity, and by being my own boss I've had space to choose to dive into areas of law that are sometimes referred to as the Impact Ecosystem. Small and medium size companies create new and necessary streams of wealth, opportunities and impact.
Corporations as Agents of Change, Time Tested
Zooming out, I am fascinated by the impact of corporations on society and the discussions concerning how corporations serve multi-stakeholders. For more than a decade I have worked inside conventional, successful organizations and worked with pioneers exploring voluntary business practices on the frontline of emerging bodies of law, finance, and metrics shaping corporate social responsibility.
As I dig in to study the roots of organizational development and “new applications” presented at business conferences, I am comforted by their place in history. I think you’ll see that a lot of the trendy new business models are actually old, time tested, successful business practices rebranded and re-circulated.
I love business, and love working with a variety of corporate clients in creating wealth. In this blog, I will explore both conventional and “new” business practices, the legal frameworks that support their success, and explore how these practices impact multi-stakeholders.