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IN-HOUSE COUNSEL: Lilliemae Ibayan Stephens, bebe stores, inc. TITLE: Vice president for legal and business affairs and general counsel AGE: 30 ORGANIZATION: For nearly 25 years, bebe stores, inc. has been selling moderately priced, sexy women’s clothes and accessories to the masses, as well as to a number of well-known show business performers. The company (pronounced “bee-bee”) owns 136 stores in the United States, Canada and Britain. There are another five licensed bebe stores in Israel, Greece, the United Arab Emirates and Singapore. The San Francisco Bay area company employs about 2,000 people. Its revenues totaled $242 million in fiscal 2000. THE DEPARTMENT: Stephens is the only lawyer at her company. Her staff includes two paralegals. She takes care of most of the corporate work herself, drafting the company’s SEC filings, participating in earnings calls and making sure bebe complies with National Association of Securities Dealers regulations, for example. She’s also involved whenever the company negotiates a contract. “I get with the other business people and make sure our strategy meets both our business and legal needs,” she says. Sometimes she negotiates individual store leases. Stephens gets involved in matters outside the legal area as well, such as helping devise the company’s growth strategy or figure out what its Internet strategy should be. Until the new head of human resources was hired recently, “I was doing a huge part of the human resources” work, handling things like employment relations and recruiting, she says. OUTSIDE COUNSEL: Stephens uses four or five outside U.S. law firms and about 50 outside firms abroad. Most of the foreign firms deal with trademarks and licensing. After her first six months at bebe, Stephens cleaned house, “firing law firms and hiring new ones.” She got rid of about 15 outside firms in all. She also began directing the international trademark work the foreign firms do for the company, saving bebe $250,000 a year. “I’m deep in all the trademark laws,” she says. That work had previously been managed for bebe by an outside domestic law firm. She found the new firms she hired by going to a conference in Seattle held by the International Trademark Association. There, she interviewed about 60 lawyers. She has continued bebe’s relationship with her former law firm, Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based firm works on corporate matters and intellectual property rights for the company. San Francisco’s Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Falk & Rabkin handles some employment issues for bebe. The San Francisco office of Los Angeles’ Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker also works on employment matters, as well as real estate issues. Stephens says that she also likes to use the international offices of Baker & McKenzie for trademark and licensing issues overseas. Stephens doesn’t just hand things off for other people to take care of, though. “Even with the litigation which I farm out, I’m very active,” she says. “I review everything. I like to modify,” what outside lawyers do. PET PEEVES: The responsiveness of outside attorneys has sometimes been an issue for Stephens. “I think lawyers need to be available in responding to phone calls,” she says of outside counsel. “Some of my lawyers are excellent at that, and some are not. The customer service aspect makes a big difference.” LICENSING: “Now that we’re spending a lot of time and energy on our online site and online sales, high-tech licensing is a lot of what I do now.” The company recently launched a new version of its Web site, bebe.com. She negotiated and drafted all the licensing agreements with the numerous businesses that helped create the site so that bebe has the right to use its designs and software packages. Stephens works on two other kinds of licensing issues as well. She negotiates and drafts license agreements with foreign companies that want to own and operate bebe retail stores in their countries. “When I’m doing licensing deals with international companies, I have to make sure [of their] enforceability,” she says. She also negotiates contracts with product licensees who make things like shoes, eyeglasses and bathing suits to sell under bebe’s name. FIGHTING FAKES: Counterfeiting is a big problem for popular brand names such as bebe. Stephens aggressively pursues counterfeiters, sending them cease-and-desist letters and sometimes filing civil cases against them. “We will shut down the sellers of these products with the help of local authorities,” she says. Sometimes the police pursue criminal charges. Most of the company’s litigation, however, involves employment issues, she says. Stephens declines to comment on any specific cases. The company’s most recent 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission did not list any litigation. Businesses are legally required to include any cases that could result in damages that exceed 10 percent of their assets. HER OUTFIT: Stephens wears mostly bebe clothes. On the day she was interviewed, she wore a black T-shirt with “bebe.com” in white letters, black denim pants and black high-heeled boots, all made by bebe. She was flying to England for business later that day, so she dressed down. “I usually wear a pantsuit or a business casual set and pants” to work, she says. Stephens travels about once a month for her job and likes to wear something with the company’s name on it when she does. ROUTE TO THE TOP: Stephens graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1992. She received her degree from Stanford Law School in 1996. Her first job was at Gray Cary. As an associate in the corporate and securities group at a law firm in the heart of Silicon Valley, Stephens worked mainly for publicly traded high-tech companies. But she also worked on bebe’s initial public offering in 1998. The following year, she accepted the company’s offer to become its general counsel. Bebe had been without a general counsel for about six months. At 30, Stephens is 10 to 15 years younger than bebe’s other senior executives and one of the youngest general counsel at a publicly traded company. She says that she was surprised to end up in the fashion business. Until then her career had been “very high-tech.” The change has worked out well for her, though. This past summer, she was promoted to vice president. FAMILY: Stephens’ husband, Thaddeus, who is also a lawyer, is the co-founder of DMT Media Inc., a company that provides information services to investment banks and law firms. LAST BOOK READ: Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut.

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