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Name and title: Richard L. Manetta, corporate vice president and general counsel Age: 58 Big-company slump: “Plastics.” The Dow Chemical Co.-the people who brought the world Saran Wrap-must love this bit of career advice bestowed upon young Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate. Lots of plastics, chemicals and agricultural products brought Dow $27.6 billion in sales in 2002, according to Dow’s annual report. Incorporated in 1897, Dow now does business in more than 170 countries and has a corps of some 50,000 employees. Even this massive global presence shuddered when the economy slumped. “2002 was not a good year for Dow,” Chairman, President and CEO William S. Stavropoulos said bluntly in a written report to shareholders about the company, based in Midland, Mich. Legal unit: Upon taking charge as Dow’s corporate vice president and general counsel in July 2001, Richard L. Manetta faced an immediate challenge: to fast-forward the legal unit to the present while immersing himself in the company, its culture and its people. “The department had not been reorganized in 20 years,” Manetta said. He began immediately to examine the legal department to see whether it was “client aligned.” After taking about a year to “do his homework” for the redesign, Manetta reorganized the department and cut the number of lawyers directly reporting to him from 14 to eight. Today, the department has some 150 attorneys, enough to establish a sizeable law firm. Lawyers are distributed among some 15 nations. Roughly 100 of them work at the company’s headquarters. Five units take care of the substantive legal work. Corporate legal affairs, with 25 attorneys, handles litigation and finance law matters. The legal functional services group has 22 lawyers who work on human resources issues and provides legal advice concerning public and government affairs. The 30 attorneys of the international law group cover everything outside Dow’s U.S. operations, reaching into Europe, Asia and the Pacific, South America and Canada. The global business law practice group has 59 lawyers who service the various businesses that fall under the Dow umbrella. The business lawyers work closely with the intellectual property group, which has six lawyers and three patent agents. A nonlawyer heads the global legal administration group, which oversees internal and external cost and productivity issues involved in handling Dow’s legal work. Two other units round out the department’s structure: The office of the corporate secretary, whose two lawyers work closely with Manetta and with the company’s board of directors, and the global office of ethics and compliance, which also has two lawyers and, as Manetta said, “cuts across all of the corporate practice groups.” One person from each group reports to Manetta directly, and the eight-person management team meets twice monthly. The tree of responsibility branches out from there. Within the corporate group, for example, three or four lawyers may have a number of attorneys reporting to each of them. “It’s actually been received very favorably,” Manetta said. Projects: Being in the business of making and selling anything-let alone chemicals-involves risk. When Dow acquired Union Carbide Corp. in 2001, it obtained a massive asbestos litigation docket along with a new wholly owned subsidiary. Asbestos litigation presents “probably the most important issue” facing the company, Manetta said. Dow and other leaders are working to promote Senate Bill S. 1125, which would remove asbestos claims from the tort system and create a trust fund to compensate the sick on a no-fault basis, Manetta said. Dow’s annual report pegs liability for Union Carbide’s asbestos claims at $2.2 billion, not counting “future defense and processing costs.” Corporate governance is also high on Manetta’s to-do list, though he said that Dow was in good shape before laws like the Sarbanes-Oxley Act hit the books, having had a code of business conduct back in 1998. Still, a companywide ethics initiative prompted Manetta to forge a January 2002 alliance with The Legal Knowledge Co., a legal research and analysis firm. This partnership will play a key role in Dow’s five-year plan to instruct its work force about the legal and ethical concerns that intersect with the company’s daily operations, in-house lawyers included. “Lawyers in a company are held to a higher standard than the rest of the company,” Manetta said. Outside counsel: A number of firms provide outside legal muscle. The short list: Jim Stengel at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe for lots of litigation work and Herb Zarov at Chicago’s Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw for litigation and some corporate work. Route to the top: The Ford Motor Co. made its mark on three generations of the Manetta family, starting with his Italian grandfather who worked in Ford’s foundry. Manetta’s father was a skilled die maker at Ford; Manetta signed on as an attorney in Ford’s legal department in 1978. By the time Manetta left Ford for Dow in 2001, he had achieved the No. 2 job in the legal unit. Being second is very good, but being first is better. “I always wanted to run my own show,” Manetta said. He got that chance when a headhunter contacted him in early 2001 about Dow’s GC position. Manetta brought to Dow some 23 years of experience with virtually every facet of Ford’s legal business, including mass tort cases like the Ford/Firestone litigation. Manetta said he steered that legal team. Detroit is Manetta’s childhood home, where he enjoyed a rich ethnic blend: a Polish mother, an Italian father and a modest Jewish neighborhood. After earning his bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Michigan in 1967, Manetta secured a law degree from Wayne State University in 1972. During law school, Manetta worked for the Detroit City Council. There was a short stint at a small firm after graduation before Manetta returned to the city council to work on a new city charter. In 1974, he signed on with the City of Detroit Law Department, and held the top nonappointed position by the time he left for Ford in 1978. Family: Manetta and his wife, Margaret, raised four children. Last book and movie: Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit and the movie with the same name. -Lisa Stansky

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