Anthony Rallo – Coherent Corp.
His employer growing rapidly through acquisitions, Anthony Rallo’s been smoothing what’s been a wild ride at Coherent Corp. General counsel of the North American lasers segment since early this year, and he’s stepping outside the traditional legal role in being a full partner to the business side.
Upgraded contract lifecycle management essential to the cause, he’s been called the project’s leader. Much as Rallo appreciates the confidence others place in him for technological acumen, he says it’s not really true.
“I’m just trying to get input from others who will be using it,” he tells Vanguard from his East Granby, Connecticut office this past fall. “We need our contract management tools to be as effective as possible.”
Much will be riding on the new system, Coherent’s growth calling for the most proactive and methodical CLM through award, compliance and renewal. While his letterhead says he’s the legal boss for lasers, Rallo’s actually tasked with managing the transactional systems for three integrated multibillion-dollar companies—lasers, materials and networking—in need of one access point for current and future contracting. Implementing a new CLM system is among the most ambitious projects underway at Coherent.
There are volumes of old data that need extracting, which gets complex with three segments. But Rallo and the brass foresee savings in cost and time and a boost in overall efficiency, post-M&A integration and tracking claims and litigation that are business as usual in global commerce.
All the better if his colleagues in other departments readily interface with whatever CLM replaces legacy infrastructure. Rallo says technology has a way of frustrating its users; thus, everyone should have a say in how it’s designed. He’ll keep soliciting ideas from the higher-ups and everyone whose responsibilities will be affected.
He means business
Sustaining a productive workplace is part of Rallo’s modus operandi. Just 36, he’s already an in-house veteran, the 2014 Penn State Law graduate having honed his skills for three years with another Connecticut company, the laser and optical components manufacturer Nufern, that’s since come under the Coherent umbrella. The past nine years have been a wild ride that Rallo expects will only accelerate as company plans include providing the tools for artificial intelligence. As excited as Rallo gets over that prospect, he’ll still be a calming influence.
He says that simply being a people person goes a long way toward keeping everyone focused. The same empathy he has for tech-challenged colleagues extends to his dealings with vendors and prospective partners. If Rallo has a superpower, he says he can build and strengthen relationships by addressing the concerns of whoever’s seated across the conference table. A collaborative rather than confrontational approach goes a long way toward sealing a deal.
“Being an empathetic and skilled relationship manager and developer has been critical in managing transactions and deals,” Rallo says. “I’m able to put myself in other people’s shoes.”
That has him learning much on the spot, what with Coherent being immersed in complex contracts while making “laser products for a billion applications,” including for military use. He’s had to familiarize himself with rules and regulations at home and abroad and match risk profile with client demand.
“That’s not inherently in conflict with compromise,” Rallo says. “You can get what you need, and then some, and what you compromise has value as a means of exchange.”
Made for M&A
He’s had many occasions to practice this give-and-take, Coherent having been on both sides of the M&A equation. In July 2022, II-VI bought it and changed its name to Coherent. Pre-purchase, Rallo had served in the Coherent legal department since 2017 and was promoted to his present role from associate general counsel for commercial and government affairs.
Rallo’s also something of an anomaly, a general counsel who bypassed the usual firm-first route to the C-suite. But in-house is where he’s found his professional home, though it wasn’t always planned.
Born and raised in Racine, Wisconsin, he laughingly recalls how when he was 16, he was wrongfully accused of pumping gas and not paying for it. Under pressure from police who threatened to write a letter to a judge and possibly ruin Rallo’s college application, he says he admitted to something he hadn’t done and how that had him pondering law school.
First came the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Rallo, earning a degree in English literature. As a Penn State Law student, he spent a summer earning a global arbitration certificate. A family friend at Nufern hired him to build a compliance program, and when the company was absorbed by Coherent, Rallo was retained and ascended the legal ladder.
There could be rungs to come, this publicly owned company literally sees the sky as the limit. The laser industry should only grow and demand for Coherent’s expertise with it. It’ll acquire what the company doesn’t assemble, and Rallo, the go-to for all transactional protocols, will keep busy.
He’s aided by three lawyers and an analyst under his wing and, of course, by the relationships forged with other departments.
“That’s one of the things I like about this company,” Rallo says. “The coordination and cooperation. That’s something other companies lack.”
The cohesion should only grow once modernized CLM has everyone on the same page. Experience has taught him that those who complain most about technology are those who must use it but don’t have a say in its design.
Rallo emphasizes that being a general counsel isn’t just about minding the legal matters. It’s also about breaking down silos and reaching out to colleagues and not being a so-called department of no.
Still a young man, Rallo sees his potential to be unlimited like Coherent’s. He’s overcome some long odds in becoming a general counsel at 36 and, at least for the foreseeable future, will be a fixture at Coherent.
Home life is also satisfying, and Rallo and his wife live in suburban Connecticut and share their house with a pure-bred chihuahua and a terrier-chihuahua mix. The couple enjoys traveling, but with Coherent’s growth, Rallo might mostly stay put.
But that’s OK with him.
“By creating dealings with partners and vendors, I’m helping the company grow,” Rallo says.
View this feature in the Vanguard Winter I 2024 Edition here.
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