Blog

Corporate attorneys have 320 million new clients

They are the Americans who rely on corporations as much as their country

Of all the people and businesses written about in our recent edition, none are without international ties. An office in another country is the obvious example; past ownership under a consortium of Korean private equity firms one of the more obscure (see the story on Acushnet Holdings).

Such international ties are undeniably important. They are complex. And they are complicated by a president who, in terms of foreign policy, is the wildest of wild cards, offering little in the way of consistency, transparency or diplomacy, and perhaps too much in the way of personality.

Vanguard takes no stance on political matters or figures. But just like the attorneys we write about, we can’t help but ponder the current risks to so much business.

Vanguard takes no stance on political matters or figures. But just like the attorneys we write about, we can’t help but ponder the current risks to so much business.

What we see on the horizon: a trade war with Canada; an unclear future for the longstanding free trade agreement, NAFTA, on which the entirety of U.S. agriculture and myriad other industry depends; shifting policy on immigrants necessary to manufacturing and labor jobs; slashes in federal aid to the poor whose only other support system, barring family, is the worksite or office.

All of this uncertainly may be compounded by the hands-off approach taken by our commander in chief. In the same honeymoon period during which former President Obama made 13 diplomacy-building trips abroad, President Trump has made just one, according to NPR’s reporting, making the rounds in the Middle East and Europe in mid- to late-May.

Why does this matter to Vanguard? The attorneys we profile profess to be legally minded and business minded. At the head of corporations often employing thousands—veritable engines of equity, in the best instances—their contributions to American prosperity are as significant as those of any political figure. Their views matter and need to be heard, though they are often muted by executives who understandably shy from the limelight.

Take Lias “Jeff” Steen, the high-spirited executive vice president of human and legal resources for Oil States International Inc., to whom “A diplomatic touch and spontaneous business judgement are as indispensable as carefully articulated legal reasoning,” in the words of writer Neil Cote. Steen applies his considerable expertise to manufacturing and sales in the U.S., United Kingdom, Singapore, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, Azerbaijan, Brazil, England, France, Nigeria, Scotland and the United Arab Emirates.

In so doing, he ties these counties together with an alternative form of foreign policy, one in which borders are less of a concern than bottom line; and the citizens are the employees and investors. In short, a world in which globalization can’t be undone.

Heather Bush knows something about this reality. Her employer, Bureau Veritas, is a global leader in testing, inspection and certification services rendered to over 400,000 businesses in 140 countries amidst legal risks that “can swallow unprepared companies whole,” in the words of writer Mike Schoch. This general counsel defers credit to those around her, but one of her outside counsel called her a “brilliant businesswoman and always well aware of her audience,” and surely awareness of so many cultures, customs and legalities is a silent contributor to international stability for so many influential corporations.

Attorneys like Steen and Bush are quick to point out that their client is their company. True, mostly.

Yet one could argue that they and the other high-up corporate attorneys have other, equally important clients for whom they are now doing overtime: 322 million Americans.

For just as those millions of people rely on their government, they depend on businesses to support and sustain them, and those businesses are increasingly reliant on bright people who happen to have law degrees for all matters, not just legal ones. Simply by providing jobs with benefits, corporations, though popular to malign, provide security to so many individuals and so many regions, and attorney-executives are essential to their operations. Yet on a larger scale, they are a stabilizing force among and between countries, perhaps reminding their political representatives that the devil is in the details, when, for instance, a free trade agreement is threatened through an unceremonious and unexpected Tweet from above, or an executive order requires interpretation.

So as you read about the Jeff Steens and Heather Bushes in this edition, you might not be privy to their political leanings. Wisely, in the manner of any diplomat, they have kept their views private.

Yet their qualities shine through, qualities that might just avert the next crisis you never heard about.

Testimonials

The piece highlighting my company, Bob Baker Enterprises, Inc., came out fabulous. Our company is in the new and used car sales and service industry. Everyone was great to work with and extremely professional. They produced a high-quality product and have provided expert assistance and guidance post-production of the article.
– Wade Poulson, General Counsel, Bob Baker Enterprises Inc.
I was honored to be the subject of an article. I enjoy reading Vanguard articles and seeing how other attorneys got to their positions and see their jobs. It's also interesting to see how different law firms partner with the subjects of the articles.
– Henry Marquard, in-house counsel, Stanley Consultants Inc.

LATEST EDITION

Summer 2017

READ NOW

GET VANGUARD IN YOUR INBOX.

  • * We’ll never share your email or info with anyone.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.