Lee Reichert, deputy general counsel at Molson Coors Brewing Co.
Lee Reichert, deputy general counsel at Molson Coors Brewing Co. ()

Lee Reichert’s recipe for creating a top-shelf legal team at Molson Coors Brewing Co. includes these ingredients: Hire lawyers who reflect the company’s global customer bases; devise innovative ways to engage outside counsel; and build a team that can cope with global compliance demands.

Denver-based Molson’s department handles legal matters for the 9,250-employee brewing company. It also works closely with the legal department for MillerCoors, an 8,400-employee joint venture between Molson and SABMiller PLC. Molson’s $7.5 billion in revenue last year included $4.2 billion in Molson sales and $3.3 billion in joint-venture sales. The company sells its products in at least 60 countries.

To “delight the world’s beer drinkers,” said deputy general counsel Reichert, “we need a diverse set of employees.” Reichert, also chief legal officer for the company’s Molson Coors International unit, reports to global chief people and legal officer Samuel Walker.

Reichert’s team has five U.S. lawyers and 45 other legal department members worldwide, including attorneys, risk-management, intellectual property and compliance experts. The legal team has helped the company’s compliance department integrate the $3.4 billion 2012 acquisition of Central and Eastern European brewer StarBev L.P., he said.

“How you get beer to market varies in different countries,” Reichert said. But being diverse — a reflection of the markets it serves — helps. More than two-thirds of the company’s worldwide legal department and lawyers are women or minorities, he said.

Molson also encourages diversity at the outside firms it uses. It recently finished the Step Up for Diversity pilot program for corporate counsel with Denver’s Center for Legal Inclusiveness.

“We don’t view ourselves as just the people we have here. It’s important when we hire outside counsel that they also reflect diversity and inclusiveness,” Reichert said.

The pilot program, which ran from September 2012 through April 2013, called for corporate counsel to meet with diverse attorneys at outside firms and give them work, review the outside firms’ diversity metrics and prompt law firm relationship partners to participate in diversity events.

Molson continued its efforts postpilot, including using creative billing arrangements for diverse younger associates who work on Molson matters, Reichert said. Molson is also helping the center organize a program focused on improving junior partner and senior associate business pitching skills, the center’s executive director Karen Hester said.

“Just to have the support and buy-in, and people taking the initiative in helping to plan programs, support them and getting more people involved, you really can’t ask for more than that,” Hester said.

Reichert links diversity efforts to other initiatives whenever possible. That includes a speaking program whereby an outside lawyer makes a lunchtime presentation to Molson lawyers and professionals about legal issues including data privacy or securities law.

The program has afforded public speaking experience to some younger and diverse attorneys, he said.

“It’s a good way our trusted outside counsel have been able to add value to us as an organization [in a way] that is not a cost to us and has been well-received,” Reichert said.

Molson recently added another young person’s perspective — an intern from a new legal residency program run jointly by the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and the University of Colorado Law School.

The intern is a new law school graduate. Molson signed her up in August for the maximum 18-month stint, Reichert said. “We in the legal department like to be Guinea pigs,” he said.

As for day-to-day operations, Molson’s legal department views itself as a group of generalists who consider outside counsel part of the team. The internal lawyers do much of the commercial work, partner with outside firms for mergers and acquisitions and farm out specialized work such as securities matters.

A two-day retreat every two years helps the outside lawyers get to know Molson legal and business professionals — and each other.

There’s also time to tour a brewery and to kick back with, of course, some beer, Reichert said.

Molson’s key firms include Kirkland & Ellis of Chicago and Perkins Coie of Seattle, plus DLA Piper for international work.

Molson effectively integrates outside lawyers into the in-house group and business, said Perkins Coie Denver business practice partner Jason Day, who does securities work for the company.

Day said he’s attended meetings with Molson executives and is copied on relevant Molson emails.

“I do absolutely feel a part of the team. That adds a tremendous amount of value on both sides,” Day said.

COMPANY BIO

Name of company: Molson Coors Brewing Co.
Headquarters: Denver
Industry: Beverages
No. of lawyers in Colorado: 5
No. of lawyers outside Colorado: would not disclose.
Chief legal officer: Samuel Walker

KEYS TO SUCCESS

♦ Be a passionate brand and business champion and protector. Be a thought leader who drives commercial value.

♦ Develop a deep understanding of your business and its strategic objectives, as well as the industry in which it operates.

♦ Have the courage to say “yes,” but also the conviction to say “no” when required.

— Lee Reichert