Please describe your current role (eg, responsibilities, size of team, structure).
As senior vice president and deputy general counsel reporting to the general counsel, I lead the global business relations and litigation group, comprised of eight lawyers. Together we are responsible for the legal aspects of business relations with our distributors, joint venture partners and retailers worldwide. We also provide advice and counsel and oversee any major litigations relating to competition and antitrust, privacy and e-commerce, among other matters.
What is the greatest achievement of your career thus far?
One of our major achievements has been the defence of the company's selective distribution business model in the European Union in the face of various legislative, political and litigation challenges. This effort, which has been successful to date, is a continuing joint effort of the legal team and senior management of the company.
What is the most challenging situation that you have faced in your current role?
It was extremely challenging to orchestrate the successful legal defence of the company in a major cartel case in Switzerland against a trade association and numerous other members of our industry. We had to coordinate the efforts of a few law firms and economists to rebut the complex allegations.
Are there certain kinds of legal issues that you routinely refer to outside counsel? And what kind of matters do you tend to handle in-house?
We handle most contract work and commercial negotiations almost entirely in-house, consulting specialists as needed on some points of law. All litigation requires the use of outside counsel, but the in-house lawyer is either the captain or a key member of the litigation team.
Which law firms that you have recently instructed have made you smile, and why?
Gibson Dunn in Brussels is our 'go-to' firm in the European Union, because of the superb judgement of Andres Font Galarza. They made me smile last year when I was stranded in Brussels because the Icelandic volcano shut down air traffic; Gibson Dunn set me up with my own office in their firm to work from for one week.
In the United States we rely on Kaye Scholer in New York for quick antitrust advice, because Fred Yerman is astute and knows our business so well that there is no learning curve.
What is the best piece of advice that you have ever received?
Professor Milton Handler, who was the dean of the antitrust bar in the United States and the head of the antirust department at the firm where I began my legal career, called me into his office before I was going to argue my first motion in court. He solemnly told me that he had only one piece of advice: "Don't mess up!" I try to live by that maxim.
What are the most significant challenges that in-house lawyers are likely to face over the next few years?
Coordinating work among legal teams operating in divergent legal environments across the globe is extremely challenging. For example, applying constantly changing privacy laws across borders is a difficult undertaking.
With regard to your industry, are there any recent significant developments worth highlighting?
The proliferation of e-commerce and in particular mobile commerce is reshaping the retail industry. In the context of selective distribution, the intersection of intellectual property, competition law and government regulation (eg, with regard to data protection) is highly relevant to our day-to-day practice.
If not a lawyer, what would you be?
A commercial artist or illustrator.
About The Estée Lauder Companies Inc
The Estée Lauder Companies Inc (ELC) is one of the world's leading manufacturers, distributors and marketers of prestige, high-quality skincare, makeup, fragrance and hair care products. The company's products are sold in over 150 countries and territories. ELC carries 28 different brands and employs 32,000 full-time employees worldwide.