Cutting Cookie-Cutter Legal at Dart Container

Dart’s Brittany Marvin on the importance of customization and learning the business

Brittany Marvin, Assistant General Counsel, Dart Container Photo: Kelli Schweizer

Though only seven years into her legal career, Brittany Marvin has already set up shop in the deep end. The assistant general counsel at Dart Container has undertaken significant transformation efforts at the organization, streamlining early case assessment practices at Dart while simultaneously partnering with IT to ensure adherence to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which went into effect in 2018. The young lawyer says she’s learned being busy is never a substitute for being productive. That may be her legal experience talking—or the fact that she has a three-year-old and a three-month-old at home. Marvin is intent on leveraging all she has learned to keep legal operating as intelligently as possible.

Marvin, who went in-house almost immediately out of law school, says not traveling the common path of firm turned in-house lawyer can be a mixed blessing. “It took a lot of learning and listening to outside counsel to become familiar with the process surrounding day-to-day litigation,” Marvin says. “But I have a very deep understanding of how to work for a business and have that business be my only client, which I think a lot of people can struggle with.” Marvin says companies increasingly see the value of in-house counsel and their ability to operate in partnership with the business, and she has been willing to lead the way.

After her role was expanded to include litigation management three years ago, Marvin says the company’s growth mandated her to reconsider what could be done to simplify the legal function. “We needed to look at our litigation management practices and see how we could improve upon them,” Marvin says.

While looking into the broadly defined “early case assessment,” Marvin found that the process for information gathering needed to be carefully customized to Dart’s specific organizational needs. “Early case assessment is a systematic way for us to thoroughly analyze new field litigation in a time crunch of often less than sixty days,” Marvin says. “I wanted to make a repeatable process to respond to that time crunch.” Marvin drafted version after version of an “evolving template” that she believes can ultimately lead to huge savings for Dart. “We’re looking forward to seeing the great effects that it has in terms of litigation and understanding how our company goals should affect our litigation strategy,” Marvin says.

At the same time, Marvin had been tasked to partner with IT to get Dart in compliance with the strongest data privacy program in history, the EU’s GDPR. The role of data privacy on the whole has evolved at a staggering pace in Marvin’s own career. “In law school, I don’t remember there being a single course offered, and now it’s an entirely singular field of practice for many attorneys,” Marvin says. “It was a huge undertaking and extremely daunting.”

By asking what Dart’s organizational goals were and what outcomes they wanted to achieve, Dart and her team were able to approach the project in a tiered manner, prioritizing the most important objectives. Marvin says that a steady stream of vendors promised magical delivery of GDPR-compliant guidelines but that those approaches completely missed the point. “Implementing a privacy program requires a deep understanding of your organization. You cannot take that cookie-cutter approach,” Marvin says.

By breaking down larger goals into smaller and more visible goals, Marvin and her team started netting small victories, which then turned into larger ones. Still, Marvin says that data privacy is becoming an increasingly more complicated field. “You can always do more, and that’s the goal: to try and know what you don’t know,” Marvin says. “From where our data is held to how it’s moved, our efforts with GDPR compliance will assist us with future domestic and international compliance requirements, including California’s Consumer Privacy Act.”

Helping build out Dart’s legal function has coincided with Marvin’s building out her family function. The mother of two says that constantly working to maintain the idea of work/life balance proved stressful in and of itself. “I’m working to integrate everything I love into a life that works for me,” Marvin says. “I’m learning to do what I need to do in order to decrease the guilt and just be happy.”