We asked Kim Rivera, chief legal officer at HP Inc and winner of the Thought Leader of the Year award at the 2017 Global Counsel Awards, her opinion on what it takes to be a successful in-house counsel, the best way to advise senior leadership, and what winning the award meant to her.

Describe your current role (responsibilities, size of team, structure).

I am the chief legal officer of the global legal affairs organisation at HP Inc. I am responsible for all of the company’s legal matters, government affairs and brand security. There are approximately 375 employees in my organisation, with a mix of attorneys and non-attorneys. I have nine deputy general counsels who oversee the various teams, such as intellectual property, government relations, ethics and compliance and global regions.

What led you to a career in-house?

Having a seat at the table and helping to drive decisions that could affect business success have always appealed to me. Not to mention the challenge of solving the complex issues that global businesses face – I am fuelled by this.

In your current role, what is the most challenging situation that you have faced? What are the most significant challenges that in-house lawyers are likely to face over the next few years?

I joined HP days after it separated into an independent company. There was no handbook on how to successfully split a company of this size. There was a wide variety of post-separation issues, both anticipated and unanticipated. Ensuring fast, fair and equitable resolution of issues – while making sure that HP remained tightly focused on future successes – was tricky at times.

Keeping up with technology and supporting the fourth industrial revolution will bring many challenges. Lawyers will have to help to reinvent legal, ethical, regulatory and political frameworks to remain relevant and effective.

Are there particular types of legal issues that you routinely refer to outside counsel? And what kind of matters do you tend to handle in-house?

If we need a second pair of eyes, or maybe a more neutral opinion on complex matters, we’ll pull in someone from the outside. We also partner closely with outside lawyers on intricate litigation and mergers and acquisitions. Any other type of issue you could imagine we typically handle in-house – we are more than equipped to do so.

What do you consider to be the essential qualities for a successful in-house lawyer?

Agility to keep up with shifting business priorities and the ability to immerse yourself within the teams while maintaining your objectivity and independence are essential. I encourage my team to cultivate relationships with the goal of being seen as a valued team member by the cross-sectional business teams. Partnerships that allow you to influence for better business results are key.

What’s important for in-house counsel to consider when advising senior leadership?

When advising senior leadership it is important to understand the goals of that leader’s organisation and how they connect to the broader business priorities. By understanding the bigger picture, you have a better-informed perspective to help to solve problems.

How does the legal department contribute to your company’s growth?

One of the principle roles of the global legal affairs organisation is to protect HP’s business, brand and technology. Safeguarding our intellectual property and honouring the creations and inventions of our engineers and designers are core. Teams within the global legal affairs organisation negotiate sales contracts with our partners and customers. We also work hand in hand with product teams to turn ideas into products and service offerings that are the hallmarks of the innovative technology company that is HP.

With regard to your industry, are there any significant developments worth highlighting?

I am inspired by the conversations being sparked around diversity. I love that innovation is so closely tied to diversity. The technology sector and the legal profession in the United States haven’t seen an expansion of diversity that reflects the general population – in fact, both are still far from it. With HP’s diversity initiative, which mandates that partner law firms maintain agreed diversity levels for teams working on HP matters, we have helped to spark a conversation in the industry. I’m excited and hope that more large companies join our efforts. Together we could have a powerful impact.

If not a lawyer, what would you be?

I would be a coach. I am an avid runner and being physically active is a great outlet for me. I also enjoy working with people. Helping people to achieve simple goals and empowering them with confidence that they can then apply to other areas of their lives would be very rewarding.

What did winning a Global Counsel Award mean to you?

I truly value the work and membership of the ACC. The recognition is validation for not only my efforts, but also the hard work, innovation and high performance of the wonderful employees of the global legal affairs organisation at HP. Thank you so much for this privilege. 

The purpose of the Global Counsel Awards is to identify those in-house counsel, both teams and individuals that excel in their specific roles. The primary aim is to reward lawyers for demonstrable achievements across the full spectrum of in-house responsibility, not simply those who have acted on high-profile transactions. To make a nomination for the 2018 awards please click here.