If you've ever picked up a bowling ball, chances are you know Brunswick Corp. But today, the Lake Forest, Ill.-based company is also a global manufacturer of recreational boats and engines, fitness equipment and tables for foosball, table tennis and finally, billiards — its original business, founded in Cincinnati in 1845. Now based in the Chicago area, Brunswick reported 2012 sales of $3.7 billion and a global payroll of 16,000 employees. Brands include Mercury Marine, Sea Ray, Life Fitness and 90 Brunswick Zone bowling centers across the country.
Kristin Coleman heads a team of 12 attorneys and 20 staff members who handle the bulk of corporate legal work plus its government affairs, real estate and health and safety matters. "We're pretty busy, so I would say the team has a beyond-regular-business-hours schedule," said Coleman, who reports to chairman and chief executive officer Dustan McCoy. The sale of two of the company's major brands was handled by a "very capable in-house mergers and acquisitions attorney," she said. The team tries to do as much "high-value work" as possible.
Coleman said her department does 80 percent of its spending with 25 firms, and it's active with alternative fee arrangements. Chicago-based partner David Rammelt at K&L Gates "is our primary litigation relationship," she said. The company has a long-standing fixed-fee arrangement with the firm. Sidley Austin partners Larry Barden and John Kelsh are Brunswick's SEC-corporate governance counsel. "We always look for the best way to get work done," Coleman said, adding that strict guidelines govern the retention of outside counsel.
The role of most general counsel in corporations today has become much more expansive, Coleman said. "You spend time on a broad field of issues because we sell many very different types of products."
Regulation is becoming a much bigger part of the territory, too, she said. "We're not even a highly regulatory business, but it's there. We're a global company, and we have to worry about conflict minerals in packaging, and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act obliges companies to ensure that they're not in violation anywhere in the world," she said.
ROUTE TO THE TOP
Coleman graduated from Duke University in 1990 and earned her juris doctor degree in 1993 from University of Michigan Law School. After working in private practice at firms including Perkins Coie, Wildman Harrold and Sidley Austin, she went to Brunswick in 2003. She became deputy general counsel before leaving in 2008 to join Glenview, Ill.-based Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. After she helped prepare that company for its 2009 spinoff from Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., she got the offer to head the legal department back at Brunswick.
Coleman is a member of the Econ­omic Club of Chicago and serves on boards of the General Counsel Forum's Chicago chapter, the Center for Enriched Living and the Boys & Girls Club of Chicago. She loves to "do yoga, ski and travel."
LAST BOOK AND MOVIE
Coleman said that she recently finished reading the autobiography of former Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, Personal History. She added, however, "I never get to the movies — darn!"