With a market value of around $112 billion, Cisco Systems Inc. is ubiquitous. The San Jose-based company's networking and video conferencing wares are sold across the list of Fortune 500 companies and the U.S. government is one of its largest customers.
Long-focused primarily on enterprise services, Cisco in the mid-2000s made a high-profile entrance into the small business and consumer market with its Flip video cameras, Umi videoconferencing and Linksys routers. Then over the past few years it has made an equally high-profile exit from those businesses to refocus on the enterprise market.
The company is a prolific dealmaker. Its 2012 acquisitions include the $5 billion purchase of video software and security company NDS Group and the $1.2 billion takeover of cloud networking company Meraki Inc.
Along the way, the company has positioned itself as an ardent general in the battle against nonpracticing entities, sometimes referred to as "patent trolls." It is both a defendant and a plaintiff in patent disputes. Cisco was recently handed a setback in its novel attempt to turn the tables on NPE Innovatio IP Ventures by suing it under federal racketeering laws, but that fight is far from over.
THE QUICK BIO
Aside from a two-year stint in private practice doing work for startups with two other lawyers after graduating from Stanford Law School in 1981, Cisco's long-time general counsel Mark Chandler has spent his entire career in house.
His first corporate role, in the early 1980s, was actually in the marketing department at German manufacturing company Siemens AG. In 1988, instead of accepting a full-time transfer to Germany, he took the general counsel position with computer disk drive maker Maxtor Inc., after a chance meeting with Gregory Gallo, then a Maxtor director and partner at what would become DLA Piper.
Chandler stayed at Maxtor until shortly after the Korean conglomerate Hyundai Group bought 40 percent of the company in 1994, when he took the top legal spot at networking company StrataCom Inc. That company was acquired by Cisco two years later. He recalls Dan Scheinman, Cisco's general counsel at the time, telling him jokingly, "I'm a GC and you're a GC, but I'm already here, so what are you going to do?"
At the time, Chandler, along with the chief financial officer, were the only ones remaining on their floor of the StrataCom building, which was just down the street from the Cisco campus. Feeling removed and unsure of his next move, he had another chance encounter, this time on an airplane with Jack Brigham, who at the time was the top lawyer at Hewlett-Packard Co. Following a confidence-boosting talk with Brigham, Chandler moved to Paris to head up European legal support for Cisco. He then came back to the Valley a couple of years later to lead worldwide legal support for sales before taking over the top spot in 2001.
INSIDE AND OUTSIDE COUNSEL
Since Chandler joined the company in 1996, Cisco's in-house legal department has grown from 12 to around 250 attorneys. Including the support staff and the investigations and brand protection teams, Chandler oversees about 350 people.
Long a proponent of alternatives to the traditional billable-hour model, Chandler said his main goal is to make sure that both in-house and outside legal work line up squarely with the company's business goals.
In addition to the standard litigation, compliance and human resources issues, "the legal department is there to help with the design, building and selling of products," Chandler said. A majority of his team is involved in deal making, negotiating large sales contracts and other transactional work.
Another central focus is: "How can I deploy IT in order to simplify legal work?" For example, the company developed a tool that will create nondisclosure agreements automatically, without the need for a lawyer. Cisco also relies heavily on e-discovery providers, and Chandler was even approached by a venture capital firm looking for him to vet a particular e-discovery company in which it was considering investing.