Wendy Webb Williams '01
|Wendy Webb Williams '01
Associate General Counsel
US Foods, Inc.
UM Carey Law Affiliations:
BLSA, National Trial Team.
The Business Lawyer
Student Government Association
1. Describe how you arrived at your chosen career path:
I think I knew I wanted to be a transactional attorney from the beginning, as I worked for several years prior to coming to law school. In fact, I joined the Trial Team, to understand what would happen if a deal went wrong. But truthfully, I think I arrived here through being fortunate to have been given some really terrific opportunities and trusting myself when the path seemed to not align with “traditional decisions,” such as clerking, going in-house “too soon”, and doing a stint in government, none of which seemed like the right step, but each taught me wonderful lessons, professionally and personally.
2. What is important for students to get out of law school to prepare for a career after graduation?
Well, the first is the your legal career begins on the first day of law school! Your work ethic, ability to manage multiple responsibilities and ability to build relationships are all tools required to successfully practice law. You never know when your school mate becomes your client, or vice versa. School is also the opportunity to make mistakes, learn varied skills and stretch yourself. Want to be a business lawyer – learn something about litigation. Similarly, if you want to litigate, understand who your potential clients may be – take a business law class or a policy class.
3. Describe a day on the job:
Hmmm, I am not sure I have a typical day anymore. Most days begin with me checking in with the members of my team, to see what they are working on and to ensure we give consistent guidance to the client in our space. I usually have 2-3 client meetings or conference calls. As in-house counsel, I function not only as counsel, but as a business partner, helping to ferret out legal issues, concerns, as well as mitigation strategies during the strategy development versus after the plan has been set. Afternoons usually involve drafting and/ or reviewing agreement documents that have been commented on by opposing counsel, advising facilities where there is a regulatory official onsite, translating outside counsel guidance into guidance the business can use and doing administrative work..ie…reviewing outside counsel bills. Finally, no day goes by without some discussion with my peers. In a functionalized organization, the legal department is often a hub, and part of our role as counselor is to advise our clients when the ideas they propose may have overlap, impact or risk in another business area. We bounce these ideas off of each other, refer issues and insure full risk analysis.
4. What has been a rewarding experience for you as a professional?
I have quite a few, but one in particular involves a transaction I worked on shortly after joining my current company. It was a fairly simple service agreement with an waste vegetable oil processor, but I added some probably unnecessary to the agreement ROFR (right of first refusal) language. Fast forward several years and we ultimately acquired the entity on very favorable terms due to some of the terms in the original documents, and have that specifically called out by company executives. More importantly, some of our trucks now run on the bio-diesel being produced.
5. What would you have done differently during law school or early in your career?
Well, I don’t really have any regrets, despite the twists and turns. The only thing I would have done differently would have been to complete my MBA at the same time as my JD. Business school required a different thought process, a problem solving thought process that, when combined with strong legal analysis, enhances the advice one gives to the client.
6. Other than the challenging legal job
market, what are challenges you think attorneys face professionally in
the coming years and how can they prepare now?
It is critical that new attorneys in general, and in particular those aspiring to move in-house, that they develop an understanding of how business works, and how to assess risk, not simply identify it. Learn to think broadly about a variety of issues and the key issues in other areas. It is no longer sufficient, as in-house counsel or outside counsel, to simply be the subject matter expert in the law. You must understand the business to give more thoughtful guidance on the law.