Brandon DeBerry – Camping World and Good Sam
When Brandon DeBerry recently forwarded a routine question to one of the law firms that manages Camping World’s litigation, it didn’t bill for its prompt e-mailed response. Probably a prudent move on its part.
Since joining Camping World last year as its head of litigation, DeBerry’s been tracking the economy and the effectiveness of his outside counsel through technology. Those law firms, together with Camping World, should see themselves as partners rather than attorney-client, he says.
As a national retailer of RV’s and outdoor products with more than185 locations in 42 states and extensive online presence, some litigation is inevitable. While the company strives for satisfaction in all commercial and customer transactions, sometimes disagreements result and cannot be easily resolved.
Whatever the nature of dispute, litigation can be expensive and time-consuming, and DeBerry has whittled down the outside counsel to a few firms that take his pragmatic, partner-centered approach.
He’s firm on consolidation
“When I started, we were delegating a lot of work to many firms,” DeBerry tells Vanguard in March, as another camping season gets started. “But we were losing the kind of efficiency that comes with partnering with a handful of select firms. We drive a more intelligent process by fostering deeper relationships with firms who get to know our business, our processes and employees. The time we spend with counsel is more meaningful, because they already know who we are and how we operate.”
The dozen or more firms Camping World used has since been thoughtfully curated, which enables DeBerry to negotiate more favorable rates and creative working arrangements. One of his favored firms, the St. Louis-headquartered Thompson Coburn, has offices in many locales, enabling DeBerry to receive information that cuts across the many states in which the company operates.
Meanwhile, DeBerry, who is well-versed in technology, was familiar with Thompson Reuters’ Legal Tracker platform before he joined Camping World, which the team and implemented a few years prior, and knew he could add value by improving how the system was being utilized. Legal Tracker enables DeBerry and his team to monitor and manage outside counsel spending through its e-billing solution, provide accurate monthly estimates to the accounting department, and bring nuanced litigation metrics to business partners.
“As a legal team, we want to enable the business with better information to drive more intelligent decision-making and improve processes. The technology makes that goal attainable while handling a full docket,” he says.
Soon, DeBerry will launch an enhanced customized dashboard that will provide real-time metrics for pending cases. Should there be an increase in similar claims in a certain region, he’ll have the real-time data to spot the trend and provide feedback to his business partners and assist in implementing solutions that create a better overall experience and reduce the risk of repeat litigation. As unpleasant as litigation can be for a company, DeBerry wants to make the information generated by the cases work for them.
At home in-house
“I really love digging into the facts of a case, understanding what led to the dispute and how I can marry facts, law and operational knowledge to resolve the dispute and improve future outcomes,” he says. “OK, here’s how we got here and this is what I recommend so we can improve the experience and allow the business to keep more of every dollar it earns … that’s what brought me in-house.”
Just 36, DeBerry has been in-house since early 2016 when he became senior counsel at TransUnion, one of the nations “Big Three” consumer reporting agencies, ascending to managing counsel in 2020, the year before he joined Camping World. Prior to then, he logged over five years in Chicago law firms.
It’s a lean team he oversees at Camping World, his direct reports being just another lawyer and two paralegals. Almost all litigation being outsourced, DeBerry reminds how efficiency is paramount and the benefits consolidation has brought.
One of DeBerry’s first tasks was creating and implementing outside counsel guidelines for Camping World’s law firm partners. “These guidelines help to establish a ‘Camping World way’ to managing litigation” says DeBerry.
From regular status reporting and establishing staffing expectations, to limiting billing and expense activities, the guidelines and partnerships they’ve fostered have enabled DeBerry’s team to punch above their weight.
DeBerry’s use of technology and consistent processes are all part of the comprehensive nature of in-house law that he prefers to private practice where a lawyer’s involvement ends when the matter settles. Still, he credits his early years with the Chicago law firm Johnston Greene as essential to his professional development and the furthering of his personal ideals. It was at Johnston Greene where DeBerry second-chaired his first trial with his long-time mentor U.S. District Court Judge Iain Johnston. While it was DeBerry’s first trial, it was Johnston’s last trial as an advocate before taking the bench – a moment in time DeBerry cherishes still today.
“Being a minority, I saw family members and friends in situations where the law either helped them or worked to their disadvantage,” he says. “Sometimes I saw them unjustly treated and without a lawyer to assist them. I wanted to be in a situation to help my community, and to help anyone achieve their goals.”
A University of Illinois Chicago School of Law graduate, Class of 2010, DeBerry is on the board of directors for the Chicago Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel where he co-chairs its Diversity Summer Iinternship Program. He’s proud that Camping World is a corporate host for this summer’s program and is hosting a diverse intern whom DeBerry will manage and mentor.
As another professional endeavor, DeBerry and his long-time partner are opening a preschool in the Windy City. The couple would seem to need some R&R sometime so where better to turn than to Camping World’s unique and comprehensive assortment RV products and services to enjoy the outdoors.
“Enjoying the outdoors in an RV has never been more appealing or felt more attainable,” he says. “We have a goal of visiting all of the National Parks so I see RV trips in our future.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Summer I 2022 Edition here.
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