We asked Eduardo Nogueira, vice president, legal and compliance at DHL International GmbH and the winner of the M&A Individual of the Year award at the 2018 Global Counsel Awards, his 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 him.
Describe your current role (responsibilities, size of team, structure).
Deutsche Post DHL Group has about 520,000 employees in more than 220 countries and territories, I am very proud to say that we are one of the largest employers in the world and one of the most international companies as well. With a turnover of around €60 billion in 2017, Deutsche Post DHL Group is composed of a family of divisions. As a vice president for the legal and compliance departments in South America, I am responsible for managing related aspects of the DHL Supply Chain division daily business in the region. That responsibility includes contracts, litigation, regulatory, M&A and the regular support of the operational business. We have around 25 people in the DHL Supply Chain South American legal team and I am fortunate to work with a very capable, trustworthy and intelligent group of professionals; a team that delivers excellence every day!
What led you to a career in-house?
Before getting my law degree and working in private practice, I graduated in economics and served as a trainee on a consulting company. I always loved the law and wanted to be a lawyer, following the example of my grandfather – who was my first inspiration to become a lawyer. However, destiny led me to study economics first. I started working for a consulting company that allowed me to see, taste and feel the corporate environment, and that’s what I wanted.
I worked in-house for an air transportation company before experiencing private practice. It was an important and enriching experience. I know I would not be the professional I am today without the private practice experience, but what makes me smile every morning when I go to work is serving as an in-house counsel for DHL, where I started almost 15 years ago. The company’s environment, the business challenges we face every day, the opportunities to make a difference in significant transactions, but mainly being able to see a clear purpose – those are all strong arguments and led me to move and stay in-house.
What are the most significant challenges that in-house lawyers are likely to face over the next few years?
The role of the lawyer has changed dramatically over the last 10 years and will change even faster in the years to come. The fact is that Industry 4.0 is disrupting the way we think, the way we interact, the way we work and the way we execute our tasks and duties. Many people in the legal industry are concerned, but I think we are just driving our profession to another level of maturity. In-house lawyers need to be more than open for change; they need to drive it, they need to be the change! In an increasingly digitalised world, dealing and managing with data requires very special abilities, not only due to the several regulations on the topic such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation, but also to be able to read and interpret the ocean of information available to legal professionals.
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?
In South America, we tend to handles internally all core business-related matters where our business intimacy aggregates more value to our customers, especially on commercial contracts and specific corporate matters. We use outside counsel for legal matters such as litigation or arbitration, or even M&A transactions where partnering with an external specialist makes more sense than having internal expertise.
What do you consider to be the essential qualities for a successful in-house lawyer?
You have to be passionate for the business and see a purpose in what you do for your company, as well as a purpose in what your company does. An in-house lawyer is, in my view, a very special role because as well as being a lawyer, you are an essential part of a business – someone who is capable of understanding the peculiarities of that particular business and supporting its sustainable growth with useful and meaningful legal advice. Trustworthy and proactivity are very important attributes.
What’s important for in-house counsel to consider when advising senior leadership?
In one word: pragmatism. An in-house counsel needs to work out how to reach the best solution – exploring and understanding risks, but showing engagement in and ownership of the advice you are giving.
My experience indicates that outside counsel are more focused on outlining options, while a good in-house counsel focuses on the reasons why he or she believes that the option being proposed is the best for the business.
How does the legal department contribute to your company’s growth?
I believe that legal is one of the most important departments of a company – from IP rights to contracts, from litigation to data protection. The legal function is the department that knows and understands the risks from the past (litigation) and the opportunities for the future (commercial contracts). We work with HR to protect our people and with finance to protect our investors. We work with business development to protect our customers and with IT to protect the data we receive or generate. We work with marketing or product development to protect IP rights and with operations to help on customer satisfaction (avoiding, defending or settling litigation). In my view, an effective legal department is embedded in the business in a way that it is essential for its long-term sustainable success.
If not a lawyer, what would you be?
I would like to be a farmer, raising cattle and planting fields. I was born and raised in a small town and my family had a strong connection with the agribusiness industry, which is very strong in Brazil.
What did winning a Global Counsel Award mean to you?
For me it is a dream, and huge recognition for the team I work with and the whole company. For an individual be recognised with such an honoured award requires a group of people working every day with diligence and resilience to make things happen. I am fortunate to work with a team of legal professionals who are passionate for their in-house work, business driven and results oriented. I am also lucky to work with a group of outside counsel who think and act as a team with us on M&A; a group of legal professionals that complement our internal abilities and work together with us. Winning the M&A award is also a recognition for the whole company and its broader teamwork, a result of an effort that involves finance, HR, operations and several other departments. I compare a successful M&A with the sound coming out of an orchestra; wonderful music is the result of harmony within a team! I am very proud to be part of this DHL team.
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.