Danielle Roland – Schuler
Supplying multimillion-dollar capital equipment and related services requires a strong legal team—hence Schuler North America’s strategic decision to bring in Danielle Roland as its first in-house general counsel seven years ago. Schuler North America, headquartered in Canton, Michigan, is the North American subsidiary of Schuler Group. Schuler provides new equipment, spare parts and a portfolio of lifecycle services for all press systems—including preventative maintenance, press shop design and optimization, turnkey installations, retrofits for existing systems, and localized production and service.
“I’m fortunate to work for a company that truly values legal’s input in all aspects of its business,” says Roland. “I sit on the North American Board of Directors and fully participate in customer engagement, employee relations, internal management, external relations and much more. I was given the great opportunity to help define the role and make the company’s legal department an essential partner in Schuler’s mission and business.”
Legal is a cost center—serving an “internal constituency,” company management and staff, and an “external constituency” that is Schuler’s customers. Roland’s legal department has exceeded expectations, involving legal in streamlining processes and implementing new protocols to facilitate company objectives, enhance internal organization and efficiency, and improve external customer relations.
One example is the short form process that Roland created, particularly for smaller customer service and spare parts orders. The process now includes a simple one-page contract that customers praise. The form clarifies responsibilities and expectations, manages liabilities, and produces a transparent, positive and efficient sales experience for Schuler staff and customers.
Roland is also involved in Schuler’s significant undertakings. Schuler North America was awarded the largest-ever press line order for a kitchen and bath industry manufacturer last year, recalls Roland.
“Our President introduced me during one of the early meetings and said to the customer, ‘You’ll be working closely with our General Counsel on this project; she’s a true business partner.’ That moment proved that my legal department was making a tremendous difference,” she says.
It is no secret that, too often, businesses view lawyers as problem-makers. Schuler is breaking the mold, Roland says.
“Schuler recognizes that an effective Legal department can avoid problems and—when problems arise, as they inevitably do—become the problem-solver. At Schuler, the general counsel’s mission is the same as the company’s mission: to enhance quality, economy, and efficiency.”
Schuler’s prominence in the metalworking and materials industry serves automotive manufacturers and tier suppliers as well as home appliances, electronics, forging and other industries. The North American headquarters also has a tubular hydroforming plant for tool design, try-out support, and small-to-large in-house production.
Much of Roland’s time is devoted to cross-departmental engagement with Schuler management and staff—at the international company headquarters in Germany working with the overseas Legal team, walking the shop floor wearing safety gear attire, or meeting with Schuler Group’s affiliated companies across the United States, such as BCN Technical Services and Bitrode Corporation.
Roland also works closely with Human Resources. She believes in the company’s effort to be an employer of choice. Schuler North America has grown significantly over the last few years and has nearly 300 employees nationwide.
“The more successful the company becomes, the more important it is to ensure that employees who have been at the company for years—some over 20 years—remain appreciated and connected to the company mission,” Roland says.
Roland spearheaded and currently manages the Colleagues and Community Committee (C3 Committee) in response to Schuler’s rapid growth. A few volunteers from all departments participate in the committee, which focuses on company involvement in local charities and extracurricular events for employees and their families. The committee’s company-wide participation builds esprit de corps, enhances job satisfaction and preserves a familial, close-knit atmosphere while embracing positive company growth.
“Schuler North America is no longer a small company. Cross-departmental communication and cooperation are key to our success,” says Roland. “The C3 Committee contributes to effective internal relationships and facilitates good for the broader community.”
The C3 Committee has raised and donated thousands of dollars and needed items to nonprofits serving elementary schools, animal shelters, homeless and veteran groups, and other charitable causes.
Roland is responsible for the legal affairs of Schuler’s facilities in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. She manages regulatory affairs and litigation, serves on the Schuler North America’s Board of Directors and advises and collaborates with colleagues in the procurement, HR, sales, and marketing departments. She coordinates with her Schuler Group counterparts worldwide. She has a major role in upcoming projects and acquisitions for Schuler North America, such as overseeing details of the company’s new Canadian service facility.
Roland worked in private practice with a Michigan-based law firm and served corporate clients before joining Schuler North America as general counsel. She says she’s grateful for the private experience but has found her work home in-house.
“In private practice, I was typically called on to solve client regulatory and litigation problems after problems occurred,” she says. “I would become familiar with my clients’ affairs as needed to solve their particular problems, and I would then move on to the next fire that needed to be extinguished. It was gratifying work, but I find my proactive role at Schuler even more gratifying.”
“At Schuler,” Roland continues, “I am involved in all aspects of the business and can work to prevent problems before they arise. I contribute to the strength of the business structure. Schuler North America allows me to be a true business partner and practice positive and preventative law. I am grateful that Schuler understands the broad utility of collaboration and, in particular, the positive contributions that an in-house general counsel can make. I am happy to work for such an amazing and dedicated company.”
Roland expects that Schuler North America’s Legal department will expand and that mentoring aspiring corporate lawyers will be added to her portfolio. She currently lives in the Greater Detroit Area with her husband and two young daughters.
View this feature in the Vanguard Winter I 2024 Edition here.
Showcase your feature on your website with a custom “As Featured in Vanguard” badge that links directly to your article!
Copy and paste this script into your page coding (ideally right before the closing