“You can’t just be a lawyer anymore.”

In the ever-evolving tech sector, Aspect Software’s Steve Beaver is expanding the scope of his legal department to assist the company with cybersecurity, customer service, and more

Steve Beaver

Times of transition are a given in business, but in the tech world, they can often seem constant and unrelenting. Steve Beaver has experienced this firsthand. As senior vice president, general counsel, and secretary for Phoenix-based Aspect Software, a company focused on call-center and customer-experience technology, he has watched his in-house legal role and the role of his team evolve time and again—and become much more integral to the overall business and its processes along the way.

“Corporate lawyers are expected to move beyond law-related duties and expand the scope of influence to overall business affairs,” Beaver says. “You can’t just be a lawyer anymore.”

Since coming to Aspect in 2013, he has been working with his team of ten to broaden the legal department’s function and provide more solutions than baseline issue spotting. “Everyone on the business team is expecting us to get involved in scenario planning, crisis management, and deeper understanding of tech issues,” Beaver says. “If we’re going to be effective in selling tech solutions, we have to understand how to mitigate risks and assist in talking customers off the ledge in terms of the reliability and security of our products.”

Beaver seems to relish his team’s expanded role. “In today’s climate—with uncertain global markets, cybersecurity, regulatory minefields, high-stakes litigation, reputational risks for our customers and for Aspect—the obstacles to business success have never loomed larger,” he says. “I feel like corporate legal departments like mine have never played a larger role in addressing those obstacles.”

One of the main new points of focus for Beaver’s legal team is cybersecurity. Aspect is a multinational company, and complying with constantly evolving global standards to protect its data requires diligence that can’t merely be handed over to the IT team. “Cybersecurity has moved at the speed of light,” Beaver says. “Lawyers just had to get knowledgeable in real time.”

This focus on data security coincides with Aspect’s transition from premise- to cloud-based services, and the legal department has become a much more active participant in the extended buying cycle that has come with the change. Beaver says that because of the highly regulated businesses that Aspect provides services for—including banks, airlines, and health systems—the number of stakeholders for any transaction can regularly be in the double digits, and as a result a transaction can take as long as six months to go through. Each one of those stakeholders must be educated not only on what Aspect does but what the customer is buying and what the risks are. “That’s a difficult thing to do with all the different stakeholders,” Beaver says. “Some of them may not necessarily know much about the products or Aspect and may treat it as a normal IT vendor.”

That makes communication and relationship building all the more important. “If you can’t build a culture of trust and collaboration with your clients with good communication, then you’re not going to be successful in an in-house environment,” Beaver says.

Aspect is also in the middle of switching over to a subscription-based business model, and Beaver says that means all members of the company, not just those on the sales team, are now in the service industry. “The legal team has to support that transition and navigate that transition,” he says. “We have to have the processes in place to educate our customers on what we’re doing.”

That change in mindset is in keeping with the expanded role Beaver continues to push himself and his legal team toward. He wants to get his department thinking far beyond the aptitudes that were emphasized in law school—the ones that aren’t necessarily as valuable in the practical legal world. “My worldview needs to recognize our role isn’t just to protect the brand but also enhance its value,” he says. “Lawyers can’t just sit back and point out potential problems and let someone else solve them. We have to be involved in the solution. We have to quickly resolve issues in a business process at a lower cost than law firms; otherwise, we’re not adding value.”

Steve Beaver’s Career Milestones

1998: Begins private practice as an associate at the international law firm Bryan Cave LLP; practices in the areas of commercial litigation and labor and employment

2004: Joins Swift Transportation to manage its litigation and labor matters

2007: Is promoted to vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary at Swift

2008: Joins TPI Composites, a leading composites manufacturer for the wind energy, transportation, and military sectors; serves as the company’s general counsel and corporate secretary and is instrumental in its expansion into international wind energy markets

2013: Joins Aspect Software as senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary; he also serves as secretary to Aspect’s board of directors

***

Baker McKenzie:

“We are proud to join Modern Counsel in recognizing our friend Stephen Beaver for his notable accomplishments and distinguished career.”

—Regine Corrado, Managing Partner