Boeing’s chief legal officer didn’t start his career in the aerospace industry. Nor did he come from the ranks of MBAs running Boeing, who critics say have become preoccupied with profit rather than product.

On paper, Brett Gerry, the Department of Justice veteran and a former deputy assistant attorney general, is just enough removed from fellow executives to bring another perspective—and to pose the tough questions—to help the company navigate out of its latest 737 Max crisis.