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It’s late in Memphis, Tenn. B.B. King’s final blue notes have chased you out of his namesake club and out on to Beale Street. You’re not quite ready to call it a night, but sneaking into Graceland doesn’t seem like the great idea it did an hour and a few drinks ago. There’s one major attraction still open, though: the FedEx shipping hub. The hub’s popularity among tourists has been something of a surprise to civic and FedEx Corporation officials. But the popularity of the legal department of its shipping subsidiary FedEx Express as a place to work is no accident. Here’s one reason why: Last August, FedEx Express senior vice president and general counsel Karen Clayborne dispatched a memo to her legal division. “A key to success in any division or business is people … it is YOU,” she wrote. “I also understand that you have more to balance between your career and your personal life than ever before. Single parenting, dual job families, caring for parents, and the list goes on and on. I truly believe we (the company) must do everything we can to provide a career to you that allows you to meet not only our challenges but yours as well. Retention of key personnel is extremely important to me.” Clayborne need not worry. The great majority of FedEx lawyers that responded to Corporate Counsel’s Quality of Life Survey plan to stay at the company for a while. FedEx lawyers beat the surveywide overall average when asked if they planned to be there both in two and in five years. These findings are tied in part, no doubt, to the higher-than-average potential for advancement — much higher for minorities — at FedEx. About 92 percent of FedEx lawyers would recommend FedEx to a friend, again a higher figure than at most companies polled. Clayborne, in her third year as general counsel and 20th at FedEx, has made her people’s quality of life a mission, and it appears to have paid off. “I was glad to hear that people want to stay,” says Clayborne, who speaks passionately and at length about quality of life issues. “This needs to be an environment where people love the work, where they are challenged but still feel like they have a life.” More FedEx lawyers and a higher percentage of FedEx lawyers, 52 of 61, responded to CC‘s survey than those from any other company, a reflection, says Clayborne, of a general awareness in the legal division that their quality of life is a priority: “It’s something that’s at the top of people’s minds here.” FedEx was started in Memphis in 1973 by Frederick Smith. Smith remains as chairman and president, and Memphis remains the base of operations. But the company has grown year after year to become a household name. Today FedEx has the world’s largest air cargo fleet and handles 3.3 million packages and documents each night. Every 24 hours, FedEx planes fly about 500,000 miles, and its couriers log 2.5 million miles a day. The company employs 150,000 people worldwide and is valued at $20 billion. FedEx has become synonymous with overnight delivery in the same way people ask for a Kleenex or say they’re going to Xerox something. It has taken a hit from the economic downturn, but business is still booming, and prospects are still strong. In the past year and a half, FedEx has implemented a number of personnel practices — including flextime, four-day workweeks, and job sharing — that Clayborne calls “a win-win for both FedEx and its employees.” Many of the lawyers surveyed agree with Clayborne, but a number of them say that they simply have too much work to take advantage of the new policies. Not that the work is boring. The survey makes clear that one of the best things about being a lawyer at FedEx is that virtually all of the litigation is done in-house. And one of the worst things about being a lawyer at FedEx is that virtually all of the litigation is done in-house. FedEx added lawyers last year to handle more litigation internally, and Clayborne estimates the company will save $1 million a year as a result. In addition to litigation, lawyers at FedEx are split into three groups: business transaction, regulatory, and labor relations. The lines between groups, though, are intentionally blurry. “Although we have sections, we don’t consider them to be islands,” says Clayborne. “They can bounce ideas off each other, and that helps us provide seamless service.” Legal division vice president Connie Lewis Lensing adds, “We’re in constant contact with the lawyers at the holding company and at our other subsidiaries.” No matter what their practice specialty, in-house counsel have become an integral part of the business decision-making process at FedEx, a situation that drives up work satisfaction considerably. The 81 percent of FedEx lawyers who ranked their satisfaction in helping develop business strategies as above average exceeded the surveywide average. “I have the opportunity to work on numerous major and professionally challenging transactions,” says one lawyer, “and I have received recognition on several occasions from my business counterparts that worked on those transactions and their management — sometimes in the form of incentive awards.” Clayborne credits Kenneth Masterson, general counsel of the holding company, with setting the tone for the law-business relationship. “He stressed that the DNA of a successful legal department is the lawyers’ understanding of the specific business goals of each project,” says Clayborne. “That way, we’re not seen as an impediment. … One reason lawyers want to come to this company from law firms is because they want to understand business. It’s very satisfying for lawyers to do that.” Nonetheless, such active involvement in the business side of the business does have some pitfalls for FedEx lawyers. When asked to name the biggest downside of life at FedEx, one lawyer responded, “The stress level associated with constant change and shifting priorities. It is the nature of the business we are in as a company, and for legal to be so actively involved with understanding and supporting the business, the stress is an inevitable by-product.” Other complaints from FedEx lawyers were diverse but not vehement. Praise, on the other hand, tended toward the effusive. The most prevalent complaint — and it’s a common one in corporate legal departments — is that advancing can be tough. Even on this front, though, FedEx scored higher than most companies surveyed, with a 54 percent above-average satisfaction rating compared to 41 percent overall. Clayborne, citing her own rise within the company, urges patience on this front. “Just when you think everything’s stagnant, something seems to happen,” she says. She also notes that FedEx has restructured into a holding company and group of sister companies. “There’s more opportunity within a family of companies. … I’m not as worried about plateauing as I used to be because of the sister companies.” Several lawyers lauded their supervisors, but cited disorganization within the department as an impediment to working effectively. “Because of corporate structure and culture, legal secretaries and paralegals do not report directly to the attorneys to which they are assigned; rather they report to the same boss (managing directors) that the attorneys report to,” said one. And, of course, there’s pay. Their average salary, at $121,690, came under the overall average of $125,820, while bonuses, at $25,931, fell below the average of $38,483 (a number skewed by the $135,000 bonus paid Lehman Brothers lawyers). Just 37 percent of FedEx lawyers have stock options, far below the surveywide average of 73 percent. Only 38 percent of FedEx lawyers found their overall compensation to be above average, compared to an overall finding of 44 percent. Clayborne says she’s “always looking at competitive compensation” but the pay is pretty good for the Memphis market. And she intends to “continue to focus on balancing a substantive workload with quality of life issues.” Finding that balance shouldn’t come too hard. So far Clayborne’s had a pretty good record delivering on her other promises.

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