Senior vice president, general counsel and secretary, United Airlines
Founded in 1926 as Boeing Air Transport, United Airlines is one of the largest international carriers based in the US, operating thousands of domestic and international routes daily from its hubs in Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, DC. February 2006 marked an important milestone for the company, which emerged from chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, in the longest and largest airline bankruptcy case in history (filed on 9 December 2002 in the aftermath of losses incurred following the September 11 terrorist attacks). It has a fleet of 460 aircraft, with global air rights in Asia-Pacific, Europe and Latin America.
Paul Lovejoy joined UAL as senior vice president, general counsel and secretary in 2003, having served as assistant general counsel of the oil company Texaco Inc between 1990 and 1999. He began his career in private practice at Squire Sanders & Dempsey LLP in 1981, and returned from his in-house role to practise with Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP from 1999 until assuming his present role at United Airlines. After three years of bankruptcy, Lovejoy’s challenge is to guide the company legally back towards a steadier state, completing any remaining bankruptcy wind-down, as well as other matters arising in this new phase of the company’s history.
According to Lovejoy, “in-house lawyers know more about the business and the needs of the internal clients. They’re involved in strategy development as well as execution (and they’re cheaper).” The work is team-oriented, with the emphasis on communication as well as “good legal skills”. Crucially, “in-house lawyers have to be motivated to seek out and develop personal and professional relationships with internal clients.” UAL turns to outside counsel when in need of particular expertise or staffing, and for litigation: it has built a network of seven or eight trusted firms to handle a variety of matters. “We generally hire the individual, but have long-standing relationships and agreed special billing arrangements with certain firms and would look to that firm first in certain areas, such as single plaintiff employment litigation.” UAL also turns to external lawyers where necessary for advice on outside referrals, but doing business on a global scale for several decades has provided it with both knowledge of, and relationships with, a select group of firms.
Role: Senior vice president, general counsel and secretary
Company: United Airlines
Legal dept size: Approximately 25
Get to know the business. Don’t assume you will work any less hard than in private practice (though maybe on a more routine schedule).
I’m more involved in strategy and business decision making.
In-house lawyers are more specialised at larger corporations.
Client-oriented, responsive, anticipates problems and issues, understands the role of in-house lawyers and is willing to cooperate with them, not compete for their clients.
Communicate better, earlier and more frequently.
In Chicago: a generally pro-business environment, good infrastructure, support from the local and state government and the Illinois congressional delegation, particularly the mayor, both US senators and the speaker. As a nice place to live, it’s also easy to attract talented people.
The need for tort reform.
If I have to pick one, it’s Tru on North St Clair Street in Chicago.