JD Profiles: Richard Russeth, Vice President + General Counsel, Leprino Foods Company

In this new series, we are profiling legal professionals and J.D.s and asking them the hard questions that don’t always get answered in law school. For example, how did they find their job? What do they do on a day-to-day basis? And, was law school a worthwhile investment?

Richard Russeth has worked in-house at various multi-national companies in the food industry since his graduation from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1982. In his roles as Assistant General Counsel and General Counsel, his clients may ask him questions relating to employment, intellectual property, or international tax law on any given day. Rather than focusing on one area of the law, Richard has become a rare entity – a self-proclaimed generalist. The Last Generalist talks with us once again about his career path, networking philosophies, technology, and the implications of the Food Safety Modernization Act for FDA lawyers.

RecruiterEsq: Thank you for speaking to us today!

Richard Russeth:  Glad to have the opportunity!

We had spoken earlier over #LawJobChat about your career path. I’d like to follow-up here with a few more questions because you provided such valuable information. During #LawJobChat, you talked about how a GC at Pillsbury took a chance on you when you applied to intern there. Can you tell us more about how you went about applying for the position? What your interview process was like? And, how you demonstrated your abilities from the get-go?

It was so long ago that I got that law clerk job!

The “in” was actually through the Deputy General Counsel, Ronald Lund (who went on to be General Counsel of Medtronic) who I knew through family connections – family is your number one network opportunity, then friends, then business colleagues and then everything else from LinkedIn to Twitter and beyond.

While my network got me in the clerkship door, it was Ed Stringer, the GC (later appointed to MN Supreme Ct) who took the chance three years later to hire me full-time. In hindsight, I think the reason was that I always was looking for solutions, not just giving “legal advice.” It’s easy to write sterile legal advice – it’s far more effective to give practical, useable solutions to your clients. Saying “that looks risky” is easy – saying there are risks but here’s a pretty good map through the minefield, well, that’s a winner with any client.

What are some hot legal issues facing food industries?

Primarily, food safety. The Senate just passed a final version of the Food Safety Modernization Act (passed by the House this past summer) that is the biggest overhaul of our nation’s food safety laws since before WWII; working through the implications for our clients should keep us FDA focused lawyers very busy!

Hear that, Folks? Food safety/FDA law may be an area to check out! You’ve had to deal with corporate restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, and organizational changes. For example, you moved from The Pillsbury Company to Haagen-Daaz, one of Pillsbury’s wholly-owned subsidiaries. Later, you worked as VP & General Counsel for Cutlor Foods, which was then acquired by Danisco so you moved over to a new position there. Is this a usual trend in the in-house industry?

Businesses are in a constant cycle of mergers and acquisitions, and this has a significant impact on the in-house legal functions; this cycle has only accelerated in the course of my career. There can only be one GC in any organization so consolidation leaves someone one out of a job. The trick is to be ready to deal with that. You can’t ever have your head in the sand. Constantly acquiring new knowledge, new or upgraded skills, and new experience is essential. General Counsels may have a specialty or focus in their practice, but the word “General” really means something in my view. After all you are managing all of the corporations legal issues, not just those with which you may have the most experience. Keep reinventing yourself!

How did you decide to move from Haagen-Daaz to Cultor Food Science? Were you recruited or how did you find the position?

I wish I could say, “recruited” – it sounds so much better! But a few years after Pillsbury was acquired by what is now known as Diageo, the decision was made to relocate the Haagen-Dazs business from NJ to the HQ in Minneapolis, MN. I had been with Pillsbury/Diageo for almost 14 years at that point and I didn’t see a clear career path inside Diageo any longer – so I opted to “pursue other options.” My network steered me into the Cultor Foods job – networks did exist before LinkedIn, believe it or not. It’s just so easy to maintain and grow a network now that no one has any excuse.

Great point. Is there a difference between an assistant general counsel role and a GC?

The GC needs to make the “big calls” on a wide variety to issues – some she knows a lot about, some she knows little about. This is why a diverse background in the law is essential in my view – assistant GCs tend to be more specialized – at least in large legal departments. In a large legal department, the differences are quite large in terms of strategic goal setting, delegation and overall access to and support of senior management. But in the departments that I’ve headed up from five to fifteen people, the difference is pretty much academic, although the buck clearly does stop at my desk – as it should!

During the same #LawJobChat, you also mentioned taking advantage of Twitter and LinkedIn. How do you use both of those sites? What would be your response if a lawyer asked you, “Why would I use Twitter? What do I do on LinkedIn?”

I am participating in this interview because you and I got to know each other through #lawjobchat on Twitter!! I have met so many great lawyers and other professionals on Twitter and then networked in person at the ACC Annual Meeting and other events. As for LinkedIn, it is simply a way to keep your profile in public in a way that you never, ever could before. Is LinkedIn going to land a job for you all by itself – of course not, but its part of building and tracking your network in real time; all without taking up as much time as that task used to entail. And recruiters are combing it every day. LinkedIn is as essential as an email account.

In the past, attorneys working at law firms only had to think about corporate restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, and organizational changes in terms of their clients. Now, we see more and more law firms merging or changing their organizational structure. What advice do you have for lawyers given your own experience?

Build your network now – that’s where your next job is coming from. Keep it fresh. Stay in touch. Most of all: Help others in their job search just as you’d want to be helped should it be necessary. Yes, the Golden Networking Rule!  When someone you “sort of know” asks for help, do you respond or do you “archive”? Are you on LinkedIn? Facebook? Twitter?  Do you “stay in touch” often enough?  Are you tracking job listings? Are you attending local ABA or ACC meetings? Are you writing for publication?

Your blog is called The Last Generalist. It’s a great read that I’d recommend for all of our readers to visit. What do you mean by “The Last Generalist?”

It’s a little bit of a joke to be honest.  I go to bar or ACC functions and everyone is talking about their specialty and gathered in their specialist huddles and I’m sometimes on the outside looking in more often than I’d care to admit.  My huddle often seems pretty darn small – me and my cup of coffee…

As an entrepreneur who handles everything herself, I know there are real benefits to being a generalist.  In your opinion, what are the benefits to being a generalist rather than a specialist? How do you maintain your credentials as a generalist?

I think the benefits depend on the type of person you are. I enjoy variety and being a jack-of-all-trades. Not everyone does. I think in private practice, being a generalist is all but impossible inside a firm of any scale. But as a General Counsel, I think those generalist instincts are key to being able to manage a wide variety of legal issues and lawyers across the US and the globe. And maybe seeing the forest where your specialist can only see the trees. As for credentials, well, I think it involves reading a wide variety of periodicals and branching out in CLE courses. But most important is getting a wide exposure to different fields of law as you grow in your career. I probably had a different “specialty” every 12 months for the first 14 years of my career!

How did you decide to start a blog? Was this something recommended by your company?

The blog was a natural as I have always loved to write – I enjoy the creative outlet it provides. Also, I just felt like there was a story that wasn’t getting told much any more in the very tough business that the law has become – that being good at what you do is important but not at the cost of selling your soul or not having a life outside the law. In my view, courtesy, ethics and professionalism matter. The Last Generalist lets me speak to these things. My company tolerates my blog! I am very careful never to discuss my company or any legal matters or topics related to anything I’m handling – it’s my personal blog and I’m very careful to keep it that way.

How do you work it into your daily schedule?

I have to say I am not terribly disciplined in this respect but the flip side is that it doesn’t take that much time to keep the ball moving. I probably spend 30 to 45 minutes between getting up and bedtime on these activities. First thing in the AM is a great way to kick the day off – talking to the world with a cup of coffee. When I was at a recent PLI seminar I tweeted it live – and got feedback from lawyers in the UK when I posted something on UK law – it’s such a great tool!

What technology do you use on a day-to-day basis? E.g., phone apps, Skype, SaaS, any blogging tools

I’m a huge fan of Hootsuite. I can track numerous Twitter streams, LinkedIn and Facebook accounts all from one great platform. Can’t say enough good things about it.  That plus my Droid gets me through the day.

In your position, are you in charge of hiring attorneys? If so, what are some of your favorite interview questions?

Well, I wish I could hire more! Seriously, for me, once we establish your credentials then it’s really about working together. I spend more time with my co-lawyers than anyone else in my life so I really, really want to be sure they are smart, funny and easy to work with! Oddly enough, if they are open and honest about failure, they tend to be the best people with whom to work. My favorite interview question is one that I picked up in the course of my various job searches: “Why do you think you lost the first lawsuit that you ever lost?”

I loved being asked and asking that question. Failure and how we learn and recover from it is so much more interesting than success. It’s our failures that shape us. If someone can talk about failure honestly and how they picked themselves up – that is way more interesting to me that the win. They tend to be more interesting people too!

I like that one.  I may add it to my repertoire. Again, it was a pleasure speaking with you! Thank you very much again for your time!

Thank you!


Richard Russeth is Vice President and General Counsel at Leprino Foods. You can read his blog or connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

[Jobs] In-House Positions CNA, HP, Microsoft, PlayStation

For the past few days, I’ve been finalizing the (awesome!) newsletter that goes out tomorrow.  I apologize for the lack of daily updates.  In the meantime, as I head back to the grind, here are some interesting jobs that I found around the web.

CNA has quite a few in-house opportunities for lawyers and paralegals, including Senior Litigation Attorney positions in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.  It also includes a VP & Associate General Counsel (securities) position in Chicago.

Hewlett-Packard also has a number of opportunities for legal professionals.  These include a Legal Director for Brazil, Employment Litigation Counsel in Texas (brief description below), and Specialist Legal Counsel in New Jersey.  To easily search for legal positions, click on HP’s job site and click on “Search Jobs in HP” on the left-hand side.

Job Description

Hewlett-Packard Company is seeking an Employment Litigation Manager to join the Legal Department’s Labor & Employment litigation team at our office in Plano, TX.  The attorney will be responsible for managing certain employment litigation, including FLSA and other wage and hour cases.  As Employment Litigation Manager, you will work with outside law firms to determine litigation strategy and manage all aspects of the cases.  In addition, the lawyer occupying the position will be responsible for monitoring and managing the budget for the case, routinely working with in-house paralegals, and advising HP management about the merits and strategy of the litigation.

Microsoft has quite a few legal opportunities, including a number of intellectual property counsel positions, e.g., patent prosecution and intellectual property policy.  However, there are also litigation, transactional, and employment attorney opportunities as well.  Due to the company’s secure recruiting website, I’d recommend searching the site for appropriate positions.  My search included U.S. jobs in the Legal Division.

Finally, Sony PlayStation is also hiring a few lawyers.  (And, if you want my off the record opinion, I think the video game industry is where it’s at!)  These include a Director, Litigation attorney in San Francisco (Job Number 01483), Senior Manager of Corporate Compliance in San Francisco (Job Number 01454), and a Contracts Specialist (Job Number 01494).  Again, it’s easiest to go to the company’s recruiting website and search for legal positions in the Job Field and/or look up by Job Number.

And, with that, I return to my newsletter.  Did I mention you should sign up for it?

This series features job posts from around the web.

RecruiterEsq posts directly to the link where the job was found. In addition, RecruiterEsq posts pertinent information here for readers to assess interest.

Please do not apply to jobs directly through RecruiterEsq.

Please e-mail melissa@recruiteresq.com if you would like to post a relevant job in the legal industry and/or would like a job that is posted here to be removed. Thank you.

[CA Job] Facebook Seeks Advertising & Privacy Counsel

Yesterday, I posted a job at LinkedIn.  I figured I’d branch out to other social media sites as well to see their search needs for attorneys.

Turns out the social media leader in targeted advertising (opinion, not market researched) is hiring an Advertising and Privacy Counsel to its team in Palo Alto.

Maybe once you are hired at Facebook, you could share with me your opinion on the best privacy settings for my profile?

Here’s the job description teaser, with complete details on Facebook’s website:

Facebook seeks a highly motivated, team player to serve as an advertising and privacy counsel in the Product and Regulatory group in Facebook Legal. The position will work closely with the advertising, product, policy, and engineering teams. This is a great opportunity to join a small legal team and work in an exciting, fast-paced environment on a cross-section of fascinating legal issues. This position is located in our Palo Alto, CA offices.

This series posts jobs found around the web.  RecruiterEsq posts directly to the link where the job was found.  In addition, RecruiterEsq posts pertinent information here for readers to assess interest.  Please do not apply to jobs directly through RecruiterEsq.  Please e-mail melissa@recruiteresq.com if you would like to post a relevant job in the legal industry and/or would like a job that is posted here to be removed.  Thank you.

[OH Jobs] LexisNexis Corporate Counsel

I remember someone during my first year of law school calling LexisNexis, “law school crack.”  How right she was.  I soon became addicted.  Legal writing professor needed a memo?  I researched it thoroughly.  Had an job interview?  I learned the voting party of my interviewer (in certain states) so I knew whether or not to joke about Scalia.

As a self-proclaimed tech/legal nerd/geek, my dream job would be to work at Lexis and have access to all of that INFORMATION!  All of those ARCHIVES!  All of that case law building our world’s history.

Unfortunately, I’m not quite suited for a Corporate Counsel position but I’m sure it fits one of you very nicely.  One of you in Miamisburg, OH.

Brief description here, full description and application process on website:

1.Provide legal assistance to various individuals/departments within the company, as assigned, with a primary emphasis on content licensing, content acquisition and rights management.
2. Independently advise business units on matters requiring developed legal and counseling skills in one or more specified areas of expertise, with a primary emphasis on content licensing, content acquisition and rights management.

Qualifications:
1. J.D. degree from an accredited law school
2. Licensed to practice law by a state in the United States
3. Five to nine years of relevant experience in a law firm or corporate legal department.
4. Experience in content licensing and acquisition preferred.
5. Strong communication and negotiation skills.
6. Ability to establish and maintain strong working relationships with internal business partners.
Accountabilities:
All of the following accountabilities will be primarily focused in the area of content licensing, content acquisition and rights management:
1. Prepare drafts and final copies of legal documents and correspondence within an assigned area and within the scope of developed legal expertise.
2. Prepare drafts of complex legal documents and correspondence as part of a project team with senior attorneys and management and modifies documents, as required.
3. Identify issues, conduct legal research, prepare memoranda, and advise internal clients regarding multiple issues requiring developed skills in specified areas of expertise.
4. Negotiate and/or approve changes to legal documents requiring an intermediate level of expertise.
5. Manage assigned projects to completion.
6. Assist more senior attorneys and management in higher level matters, as needed.

This series posts jobs found around the web.  RecruiterEsq posts directly to the link where the job was found.  In addition, RecruiterEsq posts pertinent information here for readers to assess interest.  Please do not apply to jobs directly through RecruiterEsq.  Please e-mail melissa@recruiteresq.com if you would like to post a relevant job in the legal industry and/or would like a job that is posted here to be removed.  Thank you.

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[WA Job] Deputy General Counsel, Global Development Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Texas may be too much of a lifestyle change for some of you who are, indeed, interested in a General Counsel position.

What about Seattle, Washington?  One of the tech capitals of the world, the “Rain City,” or the “Gateway to Alaska.” What’s better than that?

No, but really.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is seeking a Deputy General Counsel, Global Development.

Here’s a short preview of the job description, more info on the website.  In addition, Matthew Maclean is the Senior Research Executive Recruiter at the Foundation who posted the position on LinkedIn.

The Deputy General Counsel, Global Development will provide advice and counsel on a broad range of legal and strategic issues critical to the Foundation’s operational and charitable goals primarily relating to its grant making activities under the Global Development Program. The Deputy General Counsel, together with the Deputy General Counsels for U.S. Program and Operations and for Global Health, will assist the General Counsel in identifying and addressing cross-Foundation legal issues.  The Deputy General Counsel will also develop and manage a team of Associate General Counsels, paralegals and other staff conducting activities in support of the Foundation’s Global Development Program.

This series posts jobs found around the web.  RecruiterEsq posts directly to the link where the job was found.  In addition, RecruiterEsq posts pertinent information here for readers to assess interest.  Please do not apply to jobs directly through RecruiterEsq.  Please e-mail melissa@recruiteresq.com if you would like to post a relevant job in the legal industry and/or would like a job that is posted here to be removed.  Thank you.

[In-house Jobs] Various Positions at Fidelity National Financial

There are a few positions at Fidelity International Financial that I’d like to point out.

First, the company’s website lists two Managing Trial Attorney positions, one in Arizona and one in Nevada.

Here is a brief description about the AZ position:

[S]eeking an experienced trial attorney to head up a 5-6 attorney in house, premiere trial practice group headquartered in the Phoenix metropolitan area. The group will specialize in representing the Company and its insured’s in state and federal courts through Arizona in disputes involving title insurance, escrow services, and related issues. Competitive salary and benefits. Your opportunity to get in on the ground floor of an exciting new area of trial practice.

In addition, there is a post on Craigslist as of November 13, 2009, seeking an in-house litigation attorney with similar first-chair trial experience for the Central/South Jersey region.


This series posts jobs found around the web.  RecruiterEsq posts directly to the link where the job was found.  In addition, RecruiterEsq posts pertinent information here for readers to assess interest.  Please do not apply to jobs directly through RecruiterEsq.  Please e-mail melissa@recruiteresq.com if you would like to post a relevant job in the legal industry and/or would like a job that is posted here to be removed.  Thank you.

[MD Job] Med Practice Seeks In-house Counsel

Who says that doctors and lawyers don’t get along?

Whether they’re willing to admit it, doctors need lawyers just as much as lawyers need doctors.

In fact, one large medical practice in Maryland seeks an in-house health care attorney.  I guess preventive care is always better than emergency care, no matter what type of case it is.

Full details of position are posted on the ACC job board.  I’ve included a preview below.

Large Medical Private Practice seeks a

  • Chief of Compliance Officer to implement and maintain effective system-wide programs, policies and procedures that ensure compliance with the rules and regulations of regulatory agencies as well as federal, state and local regulations.
  • Special focus on hospital physician relations
  • Oversee outcomes and quality initiatives
  • Healthcare billing and auditing experience preferred
  • Legal healthcare transactional experience preferred

This series posts jobs found around the web.  RecruiterEsq posts directly to the link where the job was found.  In addition, RecruiterEsq posts pertinent information here for readers to assess interest.  Please do not apply to jobs directly through RecruiterEsq.  Please e-mail melissa@recruiteresq.com if you would like to post a relevant job in the legal industry and/or would like a job that is posted here to be removed.  Thank you.

[NY Job] NYSE Liffe Needs Derivatives Chief Counsel

Who says the financial industry isn’t hiring?  The industry must need attorneys to assist with regulation and compliance!  Tell that to all of your MBA friends.

Nevertheless, if you have experience with the Commodity Exchange Act, it may be worthwhile navigating the NYSE Liffe‘s recruiting system to apply online.

Job Description

Aiding NYSE Liffe US and London with legal matters relating to these business units.
Assisting Chief Regulatory Officer of NYSE Liffe U.S. with regulatory compliance matters before the CFTC and NFA.
Managing regulatory and legal issues before regulatory bodies of SEC and CFTC on issues relating to exchange registration, clearing registration, product approval, foreign board of trade compliance, and registered entity corporate governance.
Analyzing regulatory/legislative changes that may impact the derivatives business.
Maintaining strong relations at CFTC and SEC and subject-matter expertise at these agencies.
Developing industry legal ties in order to maintain derivatives expertise.

This series posts jobs found around the web.  RecruiterEsq posts directly to the link where the job was found.  In addition, RecruiterEsq posts pertinent information here for readers to assess interest.  Please do not apply to jobs directly through RecruiterEsq.  Please e-mail melissa@recruiteresq.com if you would like to post a relevant job in the legal industry and/or would like a job that is posted here to be removed.  Thank you.

[FL Job] Associate GC at UCF College of Medicine

Everyone wants an in-house job when they’re in private practice and vice versa.  Well, if you’re in private practice and would like to make the switch to in-house – double points because it’s also in an academic setting! – the Associate General Counsel position at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine may be the right fit.

The University of Central Florida College of Medicine is seeking an attorney that will provide legal and operational guidance in developing a broad range of compliance programs for its clinical and research programs, as well as provide legal expertise, review and advice in matters regarding health care compliance and other health related issues for the College of Medicine and other health-related colleges. The attorney will report to the College of Medicine Chief Legal Officer and will keep the College of Medicine senior leadership and others apprised of legal developments that impact medical legal matters; negotiate, draft and review contracts; and help develop policies and procedures. The attorney will also assist in implementing and coordinating a self-insurance and risk management program and other new initiatives.

Preferred qualifications include a minimum of five years legal experience, with at least three years primarily in health and life sciences, preferably with two or more years experience in an academic health center.

Apply online here.

This series posts jobs found around the web.  RecruiterEsq posts directly to the link where the job was found.  In addition, RecruiterEsq posts pertinent information here for readers to assess interest.  Please do not apply to jobs directly through RecruiterEsq.  Please e-mail melissa@recruiteresq.com if you would like to post a relevant job in the legal industry and/or would like a job that is posted here to be removed.  Thank you.

[NJ Job] Hoover’s/D&B Seeks Attorney in Short Hills

Description

Partner with D&B’s sales team to negotiate contracts with D&B’s major North American customers and their attorneys;
Partner with other D&B internal teams to negotiate contracts with licensors, distribution partners, suppliers and others.
Assist the Team Leader in the administration, training and support of non-attorney members of the Contracts Team
Lead initiatives to enhance D&B’s existing standard contract forms, and develop new contract forms and processes as needed;
Work with other internal constituents (e.g., product management, product development, pricing, finance) to support new business initiatives that affect contracts and contract management.

Qualifications

J.D. and 3-5  years work experience including 1-2 years of experience negotiating a wide range of contracts directly with customers and suppliers  and other parties.
• Knowledgeable of all facets of commercial contracting, licensing and contract law concepts.
• Demonstrated ability to advise and influence internal partners.
• Strong organizational, analytical, oral and written communication, and problem-solving skills are essential.
• Ability to work independently.
• Teamwork skills and the ability to drive results by working closely with customer/supplier attorneys, customer/supplier contract management/ procurement teams, internal D&B clients and subject matter experts, and other members of the D&B legal team.
• Strong commitment to enhancing leadership competencies, understanding and embracing D&B’s corporate culture, and a willingness to give and receive feedback are essential to success.

Job

Legal

Primary Location

US-NJ-Short Hills

Organization

Legal

Schedule

Full-time

For more information about this position (Job Number 0900367), you will need to login to Hoover’s job search system easily linked from this page.

This series posts jobs found around the web.  RecruiterEsq posts directly to the link where the job was found.  In addition, RecruiterEsq posts pertinent information here for readers to assess interest.  Please do not apply to jobs directly through RecruiterEsq.  Please e-mail melissa@recruiteresq.com if you would like to post a relevant job in the legal industry and/or would like a job that is posted here to be removed.  Thank you.