Sloane Perras says she looks for the best outside attorney for a job, regardless of law firm. (Photo By Luiz Mendoza)
Sloane Perras is chief legal officer of the Krystal Co., an 81-year-old Southern tradition with more than 360 quick-service restaurant locations across the Southeast. She directly handles franchise, intellectual property, mergers & acquisitions, employment and vendor management.
As the former acting GC at Aaron’s Inc., Perras led business operations, national class-action litigation, contracts and franchise. At Americold Realty Trust, she previously handled matters such as M&A, employment, real estate and environmental compliance.
Perras also has extensive experience in logistics, global antitrust investigations, international employment, litigation and negotiated contracts as in-house counsel for Expeditors International of Washington Inc., and she has represented various transportation companies in private practice.
Perras is on the advisory council for the National Association of Minority and Women Owned Law Firms and a member of the board of the Georgia Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She is secretary for the Association of Corporate Counsel Georgia Chapter and secretary of the Corporate Counsel Section of the Atlanta Bar Association.
Perras earned a J.D. from the University of Georgia School of Law and a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Florida. She is licensed in Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Washington. She is a 2013 First Chair Litigation Award recipient and the 2013 In-House Woman of the Year for Counsel on Call.
Describe your department and your role in it.
I am the chief legal officer for the Krystal Co. and serve on the executive team. I am the company’s first general counsel. Prior to my employment, Krystal relied almost exclusively on outside counsel with limited internal support that managed one or two discrete areas.
I am a department of one, as the only full-time attorney on staff, but am supported by an experienced paralegal and tap into experienced attorneys on nontraditional career paths, who bring a wealth of experience and capabilities to support us.
As a team, we are responsible for all aspects of Krystal and its subsidiaries. We support all major departments of the organization, including human resources, construction and development, franchise, marketing, supply chain and IT. We also coordinate and manage any litigation.
Do you use outside law firms and for what areas?
As you can imagine, with more than 350 Krystal locations throughout the Southeast, we are running very lean, so we do rely on our partner law firms to supplement our department. We handle much of the legal work in-house. Our primary reliance on outside counsel is for trial work and a traditional real estate practice to support our aggressive growth plans. Additionally, we rely on outside counsel in enforcement of our IP, including maintenance of our trademarks.
When we need support, I am law-firm agnostic, meaning I look for the best attorney for a matter. As needed, I work with a variety of legal support vendors to ensure that Krystal can always look for the A-player to team up with us.
What is your biggest pet peeve about outside counsel?
Krystal is all about building a team of A-players. Because we source for the attorney, not the law firm, I struggle with firms who oversell their capabilities. Some areas of our work are very industry-specific and require a qualified attorney who can be both efficient and economical for the matter. If firms, or individual attorneys oversell their expertise in an area, we find ourselves investing too much into their education. We need someone ready to run—and we are reluctant to pay attorneys to get up to speed.
What questions would you like to ask other general counsel?
A few questions immediately come to mind:
• What is one creative/proactive way you have deployed to address the demand to do more for less?
• Compliance is what keeps everyone awake; do you rely on outside counsel to manage and advise on your compliance needs? Or did you create head count in your department or in your organization to address this risk?
• What is the reporting structure in your organization as it relates to compliance?
What are your best practices in negotiations?
I always keep in mind that if we are negotiating with a party, whether it is an individual or organization, we intend to have a business relationship. And in that case, I want to act in a way that is consistent with the goal of the partnership. The chances of a successful start and continuation to the relationship increase if I—and all my colleagues—keep this in mind.
Additionally, I think it is critical to have a clear expectation of the short- and long-term goals for internal business partners so that your negotiation can be strategic and surgical and result in an agreement that adequately reflect these goals.
What is your biggest compliance challenge?
In our industry—quick-serve restaurants (QSR)—safety, of our guests and employees, is always the most important challenge. Food safety is an evolving area and staying ahead of that curve while still moving forward with the business is critical.
Krystal has experienced aggressive growth since 2012 and is on target to reach its stated goal of having 500 stores in place within the next four years. From a legal standpoint, what are the challenges of that growth and how did you manage it?
Well, it’s a good problem to have, and I anticipate it will remain an ongoing challenge for the next four years.
The greatest challenge is one I’m sure everyone hears a lot about: How do we provide support to a growing company with fewer resources? One approach is to rapidly establish new processes and procedures, as well as best practices, to better service Krystal’s growth needs. We absolutely must think outside the box and be very creative in order to provide the full support needed in a fast-growing company.
Our reliance on nontraditional attorneys to fill out team in key areas of expertise is one way of doing it. Forming relationships with outside lawyers that are a win for both the lawyers and Krystal is another way of successfully meeting the expectations of Krystal’s growth.
The company also was purchased and new management and strategies were put in place. What are the biggest legal challenges in such an environment and what advice would you give to another GC in a similar situation?
The acquisition was compounded by the fact that we also moved from our home in Chattanooga, where we still have very strong roots, to our new home in Atlanta. The result is a lot of new faces, which is wonderful in the business, but it requires a strong commitment to building new relationships—internally and externally—that are critical to success.
My advice to someone in a similar situation is to take the time to determine the needs of your business partners and to build those relationships.
What legal accomplishment in your career are you most proud of and why?
I have been fortunate to have a varied career with a wide range of successes across a variety of areas—compliance, “bet the company” litigation, M&A.
Having said that, Krystal will be the accomplishment I am most proud of. I am aggressively working to create a new legal department that is nimble, responsive and able to proactively manage the risks facing our organization in a cost-effective manner. I am looking at everything. How to proactively mitigate risk, better cost management and even how to generate income.
To be successful, I will continue to focus on being a key collaborator to my business partners and not shying away from a “tough” reputation. I can do this because each of my business partners knows that I deeply respect them and work hard to accomplish their goals.
What is the favorite part of your job?
As I put my team in place, stepping out of the minutiae and taking on a strategic role in my department and the organization. As a member of Krystal’s executive team, I value having a real voice in planning and executing our enterprise strategy. This is my first experience in QSR. I am enjoying learning about this industry and working with our operators to ensure success.
SLOANE SUSSMAN PERRAS
Education: University of Florida, bachelor’s of science in finance; University of Georgia School of Law, J.D., 2002
Personal:I spread lots of affection around to my loved ones. Some of my favorites are my nieces and nephew, my parents and other extended family members in and around the Southeast.
What do you order at Krystal? I love our breakfast, especially the Low Carb Scramble (served with a generous helping of bacon) with a cup of our all-new coffee. It’s the perfect breakfast for me—perfect on the run or while sitting in the restaurant working for a bit.