Kia Motors America Inc. is on a roll. In 2012, the Korean automaker's Irvine, Calif., subsidiary reported all-time record sales nearly 15 percent above the previous year, and its legal team was a big part of keeping business running smoothly.
The company's legal department is known for its rigorous management of outside counsel, use of technology and diversity initiatives. Headed by executive vice president and general counsel John Yoon, who joined in 2000, the legal team counts seven attorneys in Irvine. The department oversees the automaker's dealer-related legal matters.
Of particular note is the outside-counsel auditing procedures, led by corporate counsel D. Casey Flaherty. He works with vendors on real-time access to billing records to avoid sticker shock when the check arrives. And he's developed a technology-competency audit for lawyers in general and for prospective Kia outside counsel in particular. This first-of-its-kind test is intended to find out how well law firms understand the use of technology to accomplish legal tasks. Of nine firms participating in a recent audit, not one could efficiently use programs that Flaherty considers basic tools of the profession.
As for Yoon, besides his day-to-day duties he oversaw the design and construction of Kia's $130 million corporate campus in Irvine. And he leads the company's diversity relations, which strives for inclusiveness for a diverse set of cultures and values in the workplace. Yoon is a 12-year veteran of the automotive industry. Before joining Kia, Yoon he served as a partner at Lee & Hong in Los Angeles, where he provided executive legal advice to international corporations including automotive firms.
The company is a regular sponsor in the Irvine Global Village Festival, an internationally themed gathering each summer geared helping promote understanding and harmony across different cultures. In July, Kia sponsored the Blogalicious Five conference in Atlanta, a multicultural blogging event celebrating diversity in the digital media.