Legal Departments Of The Year: Chemtura GC Billie Flaherty Not Fazed By Bankruptcy Or Other Crises
Another silver lining in the bankruptcy proceeding is that, according to Flaherty, it brought the 35-member legal department closer together. "We all needed to get it done and we all needed to row together," she told Profile magazine, which caters to business executives (and which dubbed Flaherty the "Rebound Queen."). "It allowed us to all bond around a single process and created a teamwork that I've been jealously guarding and trying to expand upon."
Post-bankruptcy, things have returned to normal. But that's still anything but routine.
Flaherty oversees lawyers and support staff who are involved in environmental, IP, employment and commercial law. Some members are in Switzerland, Brazil, and China, and she travels to those places once a year
As corporate secretary, some of her time is spent preparing materials and logistics for meetings of the Board of Directors. She's also responsible for the legal department budgets and for making sure her staff is embracing the best practices for an in-house law department. One initiative has been to introduce an FAQ section to the company intranet site that covers a wide range of legal topics — from data protection and insider trading to health and safety and business ethics. The department also has developed contract templates, which results in faster response to customers and suppliers.
Flaherty said that one of her strengths is "problem solving in the legal context." She cites an early mentor, at the Koppers Company in Pittsburgh, who taught her how to communicate effectively when talking about highly technical and non-intuitive matters. "I learned to communicate in a way that people could understand. I learned to be a problem solver," she said.
And now Flaherty, in turn, is influencing others with her work.
"Billie is motivated, driven to success, and won't quit until the desired result is achieved — the right way," said Flaherty's executive secretary, Jacqueline Hawes, "Throughout bankruptcy, she rolled up her sleeves and was not afraid of hard work. This is what made me realize what an exceptional mentor I had in Billie."•