Victoria Donati, Crate and Barrel’s General Counsel ()
Crate & Barrel Holdings Inc. was founded in 1962 by Gordon and Carole Segal, newlyweds who coveted the stylish and affordable kitchenware they saw during their honeymoon in Europe. Under the names Crate & Barrel, CB2 and Land of Nod brands, the Northbrook, Ill., company owns 111 stores in the United States and Canada and franchise locations in the United Arab Emirates, Mexico and Singapore. Bought by German catalog giant Otto Group in 1998, the privately held company employs 8,000 workers and last reported ­revenues of $1.3 billion in 2011.
General counsel Victoria Donati joined Crate & Barrel in 2008 after serving as outside counsel while at Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg. She’s one of two attorneys in the four-person department and estimates that 40 percent of the team’s time goes to counseling and business-related matters, 30 percent to transactions, about 20 percent to contract review and the rest to routine litigation.
Donati has been able to “bring back in-house certain contract review and minor litigation work, as well as certain advertising and marketing law work,” she said.
Donati uses Neal Gerber for intellectual property law, leasing and employment work; Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton for privacy matters; DLA Piper for international franchise operations; Reed Smith for international tax work; and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe for wage-and-hour class actions.
Donati involves outside counsel in direct legal training for company employees, particularly on contract and employment matters. She has begun using regional firms on specific assignments to save money, as well as AdvanceLaw.
Donati estimates she spends half her time actually practicing law, the rest in meetings and counseling sessions including “about 10 to 20 hours each week on computer time — emails, texts, reviewing on-line attachments and information, attending webinars and online meetings.” One standout issue during the past year has been data security. “Anyone who’s being honest knows that there’s always someone out there trying to steal data and it’s always a question of how to stay one step ahead,” she said. She answers to chief executive officer Sascha Bopp.
ROUTE TO THE TOP
Donati is a 1989 graduate of Ash­land University and 1992 graduate of Case Western Reserve University School of Law. She became an associate in employment law at Altheimer & Gray before moving to Neal Gerber in 1996. After years of outside work for Crate & Barrel, she was invited to interview when the company’s longtime top attorney was asked to become legal adviser to the founders’ family.
“I like the people here, and it’s a customer-service oriented business with people who have a lot of passion about what they do,” she said.
Donati and husband Peter Donati, a Levenfeld Pearlstein partner, have two daughters, aged 14 and 15. “My favorite thing is time with my family, doing just about anything.” She sits on Chicago’s Housing Opportunities for Women’s board.
LAST BOOK AND TV
“The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt is “not just the last book I read, but one of the best,” Donati said. As for TV, Donati and her husband have just started watching “Orphan Black” and “House of Cards.”