General Counsel Q&A: Meeting Evolving Business Needs Innovates the Legal Department, Says Rena Hozore Reiss, Hyatt Hotels GC

Topics: Client Relations, Corporate Legal, Efficiency, Legal Innovation, Practical Law

GC

Rena Hozore Reiss, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, and Interim Chief Human Resources Officer of Hyatt Hotels Corporation, recently shared her views with Thomson Reuters’ Practical Law The Journal: Transactions & Business (PLJ) on innovation within the legal department and what advice she would offer to a prospective General Counsel.

PLJ:Are there any innovative ideas your law department has adopted to further its goals?

Reiss: We are constantly working with our colleagues to meet the evolving needs of the business. While our overall structure generally remains unchanged, we continuously think about how to partner most effectively within the company. For example, as technology and IT operations become increasingly critical drivers of our business, we have deployed additional resources to support that area.

The prioritization of privacy and cybersecurity has also led to a shift of resources and the creation of virtual teams to support those efforts. Additionally, our hotel development attorneys now work not only on hotel management agreements, but also on franchise agreements, M&A deals, and real estate transactions and financings.

Rena Hozore Reiss, GC of Hyatt Hotels

PLJ:How does the law department avoid being perceived as the “office of no” while still ensuring it helps the client avoid liability?

Reiss: Every member of the Hyatt family is focused on caring for people so they can be their best, and our legal team is no exception. We are focused on advancing the work of the company, while helping our colleagues avoid “stepping on rakes.” Saying no is certainly safe, but then we might as well shut the doors to our hotels and go find something else to do. Thanks to the relationships our legal team has built, we have a reputation of understanding the needs of our customers (both outside of the company and among our internal clients) and collaborating to find ways to meet those needs.

Members of the legal team consider themselves to be a part of the fabric of the business, and we encourage people to shed the notion that there are “business decisions” for which the legal team’s input is not useful. We bring a unique perspective to problem solving and risk analysis, and at the end of the day, we are all working to achieve the best outcome for the company and for each other.

PLJ:How do you align the incentives of external law firms with the objectives of the law department?

Reiss: We believe in true partnerships with our law firms. Our best “partners” are those who work shoulder-to-shoulder with us, appreciate the value our in-house team can offer, and are able to have fun with us in the trenches while providing subject matter expertise and incremental resources to our perpetually stretched in-house team. True external partners understand that these are must-haves in light of the fees outside counsel charge. Law firms that can achieve all of this become our go-to resources.

PLJ:What one piece of advice would you give to a prospective General Counsel?

Reiss: Be comfortable not knowing answers, but know how to get them. One way to do that is to ensure that you have a great team standing with you, because you cannot do it alone.


Read the full interview in PLJ’s July/August issue.