GC Fireside

Pitching in as Head of HR

Kathryn Ordower
August 17, 2020

Tell us a little about your role.

I head up the Legal Department at Glossier. I've been at Glossier a little over two and a half years. Which feels like forever! My role is constantly evolving. When I first joined Glossier, I was the only attorney. In those days, I was reviewing every contract, getting really involved with every legal initiative and trying to educate a young business and a very young workforce on how to work with legal.

Over the past few years, I've been lucky enough to build out a true legal function. I currently have a team of four direct reports, including two attorneys, one head of product regulatory and one legal operations manager. Now I put my energy into managing my team - making sure that we are focused on the right things and "going deep" on initiatives that will ultimately benefit the business - and working with the leadership team on key strategic priorities. But I must admit that sometimes I enjoy getting back into the weeds and redlining a contract.

How did your previous jobs prepare you for Glossier?

‍I definitely could not be doing what I'm doing now without having worked at Gilt / Hudson's Bay Company. I started at Gilt after spending a few years at a law firm. Landing in-house at Gilt felt like I had won the lottery of dream legal jobs. I was on a terrific team, surrounded by people that I was learning from every day and supporting a business of which I was an avid consumer. (Gilt Noir anyone?) But moving from the firm to the fast-paced, high-growth, start-up world was definitely a steep learning curve. Very quickly it became apparent that the "perfect" legal answer was not helpful to a quickly growing business and I really had to adjust to that new reality. No one wanted a perfectly researched legal memo. They wanted four bullet points. No one wanted a meticulously negotiated contract. They wanted the deal closed two days ago. I had to learn to identify the truly important legal issues and explain them in a way that would resonate with my business counterparts. I also had to learn to let some things go. During my Gilt years I became more business-minded and scrappier and learned how to get cross-functional buy-in on important legal initiatives by choosing my battles and choosing my moments. That training has been invaluable in my current role.

After the acquisition, the Gilt legal team was absorbed into the larger Hudson's Bay legal team. I went from being a generalist that supported a large array of Gilt business units to supporting just the marketing, communications and business development teams of Gilt, Saks, Lord & Taylor and HBC.  My purview became narrower and deeper. I also was given two direct reports. This was my first foray into managing other attorneys and I definitely learned the importance of giving consistent feedback and setting clear expectations. I also saw how impactful praise can be. It sounds so simple, but telling someone that they're doing a great job or that they really nailed a project can go such a long way, especially for type A attorneys. :)  I definitely brought these lessons with me to Glossier as I've built out my team.

Has it been challenging to also pitch in as Head of HR?

Yes! Challenging but also very rewarding. Before Glossier, I did not have much experience with labor & employment legal issues, let alone HR as a function. I now have real opinions on performance management cycles, goal setting and the importance of a robust HR business partner function. I will always be thankful for that learning.

When I've overseen the People function at Glossier, much of my Legal work was necessarily delegated or deprioritized. From a business perspective, there is little that is more important to a growing business than attracting and retaining great talent. So I had to adjust. I was lucky that my legal team was able to pick up the slack and we were able to lean on outside counsel a bit more than we normally do.

Super excited that we now have an amazing Chief People Officer on board; and she and I are already working very closely on a number of initiatives. I have to say that it’s been great to get back to my day job. :)

How do you choose outside counsel?

I really ascribe to the philosophy that you choose the lawyer, not the firm. As a lean internal legal team, there are certain areas for which we will always engage with outside counsel - privacy, labor & employment, regulatory, trademark portfolio maintenance to name a few. Whenever I am looking to engage an attorney on a new matter, I always survey my TechGC buds to see who they recommend. I then talk to about 3-4 law firms and see how they would approach the project in question. Once I pick a firm, I make sure that they sign our Outside Counsel guidelines so that expectations and standards are set from the get-go. If the relationship is not working at any point, I do not hesitate to move on.

How do you go about managing international laws?

We currently have small teams in and ship to Canada and the UK. We also ship to Denmark, Sweden, Ireland and France. We work with Perkins Coie on all of our international and privacy efforts and they help to quarterback each "launch". They help us identify good local counsel and then facilitate the back and forth. With each jurisdiction of focus, I have a checklist that I use to identify the legal issues that we will need to think through. The broad buckets are privacy (obviously), marketing & advertising, regulatory and, if there are employees on the ground, labor & employment.

Do you use any good legal tech software?

We use Concord for contract management and bill.com for billing. Glossier just integrated Monday.com for task management, so I am trying to jump on that bandwagon.