Features

Alison Haney Bruck – ServiceMaster(R) Brands

Looking at contracts from a litigator’s lens

There’s a certain high one gets from litigating. Alison Haney Bruck thrived on it during her more than six years as a Miami-Dade prosecutor and then the nine years that followed as a litigator for Allstate staff counsel. How satisfying she found it to secure a conviction against a criminal or to turn the tables on a fraudulent or exaggerated claim.

“Allstate was hit with a multimillion-dollar demand in a car accident case, but the evidence didn’t support it,” Haney Bruck recalls from her 2010-2019 stretch as litigator and lead counsel at the insurance giant’s Miami offices. “I took the case over, and the other side got zero dollars. I proved to the jury that the accident wasn’t the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.”

Alison Haney Bruck | Deputy General Counsel of Sales and Marketing | ServiceMaster(R) Brands

Alison Haney Bruck | Deputy General Counsel of Sales and Marketing | ServiceMaster(R) Brands

But while justice prevailed that time, Haney Bruck, who is board certified in civil trial advocacy, knows how hit or miss it can be whenever any case goes to trial. All the better if the courtroom can be avoided, and that’s been among her intentions since becoming a deputy general counsel at ServiceMaster(R) Brands last year.

Contentious circumstances are inevitable for this Atlanta-based franchisor a nd its family of seven brands, including ServiceMaster Restore(R) and ServiceMaster Clean(R). The former remediates and restores commercial and residential properties wrecked by natural and human-caused disasters while the latter does janitorial work in the commercial space.

Being internationally active, ServiceMaster can always count on its services being needed somewhere, be it for storms, floods, fires or keeping workplaces healthy and safe. With Haney Bruck mindful of contractual language, there’s less issue over who’s liable for what after disaster strikes.

“I know first-hand how one word can create costly litigation,” she says.

Eye for detail

“I look at contracts from a litigator’s lens,” she tells Vanguard in June. “My experience as a litigator really helps me understand risk. I’ve been on the far end of that journey and seen it play out to the very end. Allstate allowed me to develop that skillset, and I brought it here.”

Keen as her eyes might be over anything legalese, she acknowledges sometimes being stumped by wording the other party puts in an initial draft. Haney Bruck says if she can’t readily grasp the details, neither will a jury, and she’ll insist on rewording. Oftentimes she says it comes down to the old axiom of trust but verify.

Alison Haney Bruck | Deputy General Counsel of Sales and Marketing | ServiceMaster(R) Brands

ServiceMaster is home to over 3,500 franchisees across more than 4,900 locations serving over 1 million homes and businesses each year. And with the company focused on enabling the growth of its franchise networks, she welcomes the opportunity to weigh in on business matters.

She’s spent much of the past year assembling the foundational processes to ensure compliance with the rules and regulations of so many jurisdictions. She’s been meeting with business units and brainstorming ways to streamline their operations. She wants to know what markets they’re targeting so she can brush up on rules and other necessities and allow her colleagues to be as nimble as the law allows.

“I’m showing them that I can help them, not get in their way,” she says. “I want the business to trust me as another business partner with legal expertise. Connections and communications are the foundation of everyone’s success. I love being a thought partner and helping from the idea phase on.”

It’s all part of an in-house lawyer’s duty to know all facets of the company, says Haney Bruck who’s aiming to be a general counsel, whether it’s here or elsewhere.

Trying times in Miami

A University of Florida undergrad who earned her juris doctor in 2003 at University of Miami School of Law, Haney Bruck didn’t always see herself in corporate life. As a law student, she loved trial work and envisioned a career in criminal defense, but for that it made sense to garner experience as a prosecutor.

There aren’t many, if any, places more exciting for prosecutorial work than south Florida, Haney Bruck says. Upon joining the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, she realized she preferred prosecuting to defending, though it didn’t make long-term sense financially.

Still, she’ll always credit that time from 2004 to 2010 for the practical experience she was able to leverage in-house.

“If you want to learn how to manage a large case load, a prosecutor’s office is a good place to go,” she says. “You have to triage everything and can’t give 100 percent attention to every case when you have a few hundred felonies—including homicides—to try. It teaches you to prioritize, and you do feel good about doing something beneficial for your community.”

So, she did her duty in public life for those six years-plus and, as a bonus, met a fellow prosecutor who became her husband and father to their now 12-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter. But come 2010, Haney Bruck was ready for something else, and Allstate needed a seasoned litigator for its internal operations.

Alison Haney Bruck | Deputy General Counsel of Sales and Marketing | ServiceMaster(R) Brands

She took well to her new responsibilities at Allstate, her nine years litigating in Miami followed by three more working remotely as in-house counsel for the Northbrook, Illinois, headquarters and expanding her role into marketing, trademarks, regulatory and compliance.

Haney Bruck still might be at Allstate if not for her professional restlessness. While she liked the company and respected her colleagues, Allstate was still a very layered environment, and she wanted to speed up the learning process that could eventually lead to being a company’s top legal boss.

Haney Bruck is closer to the top now, as one of three direct reports to the general counsel. And just as she could take satisfaction in the difference she helped make at the prosecutor’s office, she can do the same at ServiceMaster.

“ServiceMaster Restore prides itself on the ability to mobilize quickly,” says Haney Bruck, whose family has taken well to their new home in Atlanta. “We were maybe the first to do so after the last hurricane in Florida (September 2022’s Ian). That’s one of our core values: ‘We Care.’ We’re there nationwide.”

View this feature in the Vanguard Summer IV 2023 Edition here.

Published on: August 18, 2023

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