The nation's gun industry has never been under greater scrutiny than now, in the wake of the Newtown school shootings. Just a few miles from the Connecticut state Capitol, where Connecticut's lawmakers are considering serious gun control reforms, business is booming in West Hartford for Colt firearms.
It's really two privately held companies now. The company that makes handguns is called Colt's Manufacturing. The sister company that makes assault-style rifles for police and military worldwide is Colt Defense LLC.
For the past two years, general counsel Jeffrey G. Grody has been helping Colt Defense shift the company's product mix to feature the M16-based rifle for the consumer market as well. Despite the challenges, Grody doesn't seem ruffled by today's new atmosphere of scrutiny. For the past eight years, he's been handling the rifle company's legal and regulatory compliance, and he seems to relish it.
Last week, on a gray and rainy morning, the Colt factory parking lot was packed, a sign of robust production and prosperity. Is this a Newtown boom?
"To some extent," Grody answers matter-of-factly. "When the market perceives a threat to their ability to buy guns and ammunition, they go out and buy guns and ammunition."
Any rush of orders creates its own tensions, Grody said: "You have the dynamic of those who are focused on getting things done and out the door, and those who are primarily focused on doing it right.
"The doing-it-right people are the finance people and the safety people and the legal people. And so you have to strike a balance in a company. That's something you witness daily as an in-house lawyer something you don't see when you're outside counsel.
"People come to me and they say, 'Well, we have to get things out the door!' I say, 'I don't care you have to get it out the door, and do it the right way. That's just the way it is, and that isn't going to change." He adds with a smile: "And it doesn't mean that you bend the goddamn rules, OK?"
From Ties To Timberland
Grody looked different nearly a decade ago. Back in 2004, when he was chair of Day, Berry & Howard's business department, he wore impeccable suits and sharp ties. When he offered a reporter a tour of Colt last week, he was wearing a blue plaid shirt, chinos and a gray Timberland vest.
Back when he was a "suit," Grody learned a lot about Colt by representing its creditors in a bankruptcy which culminated in 1994. For the next decade, he was a business law generalist at Connecticut's largest law firm.
"I did asset-based lending early on, bankruptcy work, corporate work," Grody said. "I did emerging companies work. But it turned out there's no market for that skillset for the well-rounded lawyer among sophisticated clients these days."
It's usually a deep compliment when a former legal opponent wants to hire you. In mid-summer of 2005, Grody was offered the general counsel job of Colt Defense. The move required him to become even more of a legal generalist and keep a good eye for retaining the right legal specialists.