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C.G. Appleby, chief legal officer for Booz Allen Hamilton, keeps an eye on the big picture in a company with 19,000 employees.
Tell us about Booz Allen Hamilton, please. The firm is a little different from many of our competitors in that we are a privately held corporation. We’re old; we’ve been around for over 90 years. We have about $4 billion in sales, and about 19,000 employees worldwide, we operate in somewhere around 40 countries, some small and some large. We have two principal business units. One is to provide advice and counsel on technology to our government clients, and the other is to provide the same to our commercial clients. We have grown internally — we have had almost no acquisitions, and we were told by the governor of Virginia that we have the largest number of employees in Fairfax County. We have about 11,000 to 12,000 employees throughout the Washington metropolitan area, from the BWI area to a large facility near Dulles. And we have our home campus in the Tysons Corner area of Virginia. One of the reasons that people don’t know as much about us is that we are privately held, while some of the other companies spend a great deal of time talking about themselves trying to hike their stock prices. We’re actually privately owned by our 300 vice presidents and senior vice presidents. Since our inception in 1914, we have been privately held, except for a period in the 1970s when we made a foray into a public offering, which was not particularly good timing. The business world had tanked at the time. I believe that when someone hires Booz Allen to give them advice and counsel, the notion is that they hire us, and we don’t take credit for it. If we’re giving a corporation strategic advice for where they should be, they buy that advice from us. Even our government business is very much the same way. If the Department of Defense has a serious, difficult question, we can help them think about the issue, then we again fade back into the background.
Can you give some examples of the kind of advising the company does? When we’re working for the commercial end, we do everything from giving strategic advice, to helping people implement new ideas, to helping them examine the ways that they could be more profitable or more successful as firms. We offer advice on technical matters to large Fortune 500 companies in this country, and we might be doing work helping Deutsch Post World Net in Germany figuring out their strategy or for General Motors Europe thinking about the kinds of things that they’ve asked us to think about. We also do IT work, but it’s typically front-end strategic IT. Also, in government work, we work for every single executive branch of the U.S. federal government, including a large amount of work for the Department of Defense, and a lot of work in national security. We do a large amount with the Department of Homeland Security, the IRS — in fact, there’s not an agency on the civilian or military side that we are not trying to assist in doing their mission. It’s a way for them to do it inexpensively, rather than increasing the size of the bureaucracy. We also do some state and local work. Examples would be the Bay Area Rapid Transit, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority here, and the New Jersey Transit — helping them on the technical side. If you’re going to spend taxpayer money, you’d better understand what the latest and the greatest technology is. Then we’re big in environmental things, in financial services things, both in government and on the commercial side. As an example, we might be helping a large energy company think about ways they can be more green. We operate in numerous countries outside the U.S. The largest are in the U.K., the second in Germany, and then in roughly 40 other countries around the world.
With such a large company, is your legal department enormous? Given the size of the company, we are a relatively small legal department — we have 14 lawyers, two in New York, one in Germany, and the rest in the U.S. Also, our government relations department falls under the law department, so we also have senior government relations people. Our law department reports to chairman and CEO Ralph Shrader. Unlike some other firms, we have a government contracts unit. They do the contracts administrative work, but that takes a lot of the burden off my people. We used to do all of the real estate work, but now we have a real estate department, and we provide them with legal assistance.
Anything else that’s different about your law department? Our law department reports at the highest level, and we are very much involved in the business of the firm. I serve as secretary to the board of directors, and on the firmwide leadership team, the eight or nine of us who run the company. My favorite saying has always been, you must have great lawyers who not only understand the law, but who are lawyers and business people first and first. Although I try to sprinkle my more senior lawyers within the committees of the organization, primarily I’m the one who is involved in senior management.
What are some of the big legal challenges? If I took a look at my people, I would insist that all of my lawyers be first, an excellent lawyer, and each one must then have an area of expertise. But I also tell them, you’re not just going to be an expert on 10b-5, but you’ll do work across many areas. Your work will coincide with broader legal issues. We have government and commercial contracts legal issues, the typical regulatory and compliance issues, and we have substantial HR issues. We also have people who specialize in governance matters — although we don’t need to deal with the same SEC issues, but for a Sarbanes-Oxley-type issue, we must have answers in the same areas, so we have a governance lawyer who is outstanding. We have a real estate lawyer, we have IP issues, ITAR [International Traffic in Arms Regulations] issues, as you can imagine operating a company like ours. We practice every kind of law, except we don’t litigate in other jurisdictions — that’s too tough. And we don’t have anybody who’s a real tax expert.
Speaking of that, what outside firms do you use? In Washington, we’re very blessed, like New York is, to have good firms that are willing to work with us. We use Latham & Watkins in litigation and other types of work; Wiley Rein helps us in government contract issues; we’re in the process of entering into a larger agreement with Venable; McGuireWoods is a big provider of services, especially here in Virginia; Reed Smith and Morrison & Foerster are firms which assist us here in the Tysons Corner area.
Many general counsel have talked about getting their law firms to come down a bit on rates. Are you in that camp? My number one criterion is quality. I would rather pay a little more and have the best lawyer working on our issues. We like to think of ourselves as the Rolls Royce of consulting, and we would like the best law firm working with us. I have found that law firms are very cognizant today of the issues of corporate law departments. When you look at the types of firms we hire, you can see why we never have any issues. I understand how other corporations deal with outside firms. My view is that when you find the best, you can have a good professional experience with them, and not pay extra fees, and get the best service for the dollar. So I’m not nickel and diming; I’m trying to get the best. Also, they like to be associated with a firm like Booz Allen Hamilton, so it’s symbiotic.
I’m wondering if you can describe an average workday. I travel a great deal, given where we have offices. I’ll be in Germany twice this month. And then we have meetings of the leadership team, and the board in different locations. If I’m not traveling, I’ll spend a large amount of time with my senior lawyers going over the toughest legal issues. As secretary, I offer counseling to my chairman and to the other senior people in the business. And then I’m also doing things outside — I’m very involved with trade associations, I serve on several boards. I’m the past president of the Washington Metropolitan Area Association of Corporate Counsel. I’m also past president of the Professional Services Council, which includes all 200 companies that make up our professional services industry. I also have a strong passion for a couple of things — I’m very involved in Chesapeake Bay issues. And one of my other passions is diversity. I am proud of my diverse law department, and we won an award from the Minority Corporate Counsel Association. I’m on the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce. So I end up being involved in a lot of things outside of Booz Allen. But I still have my 12-hour day here. I was once given some advice on that: Only hire people that are smarter than you, then you can go out and do what you want!
What is your favorite part of the job? I think that being an inside counsel is the most exciting practice of law that there can be. It’s like running a small firm on an international basis with some of the best lawyers and exceptional clients. You get to intermingle business, all areas of the law, and you never have to worry about being a rainmaker and hustling for clients. But I do miss seeing my wife and my 13-year-old daughter when I travel.
What’s your background? Like a lot of people, I was in the military during Vietnam. I served in the infantry, and from there I came to Washington. I then chose Washington College of Law at American University. Then I did a fair amount of post-graduate work at the University of Virginia Law School. I clerked while at law school for the general counsel of NASA, and I got an experiential basis in government contracting. This was an exciting time at NASA. From there, I was asked by the general counsel of NASA to go to the GAO and to write government contracting bid-protest decisions. I did that for two years, and then was recruited for Booz Allen Hamilton.
What interests you when you’re not in the office? You’ve got to devote yourself to work. However, I have a great deal of interest in spending time with my wife and my 13-year-old daughter. My next passion is boating — we have a place on the Chesapeake Bay, and we do a lot of boating over there. I’m also a relatively avid golfer.
Do you bring colleagues or clients to your Chesapeake Bay home? The chairman of the firm is a visitor. We recently also had a staff meeting and then we picnicked, went boating, and ate crabs at my home.
Read any good books lately? The books I have read are the ones I’ve read to my daughter, and the rest of my reading, sadly, primarily is business or legal things.

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