Out of law school, Kelly Slavitt worked for several law firms, focusing on the art of settling purely legal matters. But as she reflected on the experiences she had during her internships, she realized that there was great value in knowing how to apply law to real-life situations.
She transitioned to in-house positions at ASPCA and General Electric, aided by both her legal knowledge and her business expertise, then moved swiftly into her current position as vice president, area general counsel, and corporate secretary at Reckitt Benckiser (RB).
Thanks to her career journey—and her search for an ideal environment—Slavitt brought several important lessons into her position at RB. First, know your business. Second, innovation in business is critical. And third—perhaps the most influential lesson—recognize the power of strong teams.
“Ask questions, be courageous, and be willing to learn about what you don’t know,” she explains. “It’s important to innovate not just the business, but to also keep innovating yourself, constantly keep your skills up, and recognize when the market is changing.”
To Slavitt, knowing the dynamic nature of the business is crucial in providing it with the best solutions possible. This skill, however, proves to work best when upheld by a close-knit team, all directed by the same goal. “A strong team can achieve so much,” she says.
In her role with RB, she reflects upon teams throughout her life that positively impacted her work to mirror these strategies on the teams she now serves on.
“Being given the opportunity to lead a team has allowed me to think about what leaders I admired did to motivate me—how did I thrive under them?” Slavitt explains. “I’ve tried hard to manage the different teams that I’ve had over the years in a way that respects what all of their interests are. The key thing for me is promoting their development and helping them be the best that they can be.”
She adds, “I’m training my team to work like ‘mini general counsels.’ I introduce them to a mix of work so they can have career mobility and long-term job satisfaction.”
“I’m training my team to work like ‘mini general counsels.’ I introduce them to a mix of work so they can have career mobility and long-term job satisfaction.”
At RB, Slavitt takes advantage of her opportunity to be part of several influential teams. In addition to leading her own close-knit legal team, she’s part of her business unit’s area management team for North America. This team works cross-functionally to drive the business by pinpointing areas of opportunity and then using valuable resources and techniques offered by different departments to achieve goals. The supply director, for example, may need the expertise of the legal director to resolve a vendor dispute or negotiate a new contract, and the legal director may need the expertise of the research and development director to understand advertising substantiation being challenged by a competitor.
Furthermore, Slavitt stands as a dedicated member of RB’s business unit global legal leadership team, which works cross-geographically. She says, “This team gets stronger each time we share global practices from regional legal directors around the world. It helps us broaden our viewpoints on how to be the best business partners we can.”
Recently, RB underwent a company restructuring, splitting organizationally into two different business units—one branded “health” and the other “hygiene and home.” Slavitt, who now supports the “hygiene and home” portion of the business, currently works with her team to further RB’s mission of creating a cleaner world.
“We want to create a world that has more hygiene and sanitation and where people have access to clean drinking water. We want to make an impact on the health and happiness of people’s homes,” she explains.
While Slavitt and her team completed the legal aspects of the split, they started thinking about how to make the legal team even better. Eventually, they shared a global proposal with the CLO. The company is already implementing aspects of the proposal, such as using technology and new processes to streamline time-consuming and costly aspects of legal review. They’ve also implemented electronic billing services and database and reporting metrics; used artificial intelligence to help sort through documents; and created e-commerce content-review tiers that allow faster speed to market. These improvements also allow the legal team to work more efficiently, using fewer resources.
Despite the amount Slavitt and her team seek to accomplish day to day, they always make an effort to make time to exercise their passions and give back to their community. With her chief legal officer’s help, Slavitt started a global pro bono program to source sustainability-related projects. Now, they’re even extending this program to source these projects directly from the United Nations so that RB can have a greater hand in helping communities gain access to cleaner water, and work toward the possibility of a greener, plastic-free planet. Luckily, as these environmental issues come to light more so in everyday life, Slavitt says that there is an incredible abundance of sustainability projects that have helped her team of lawyers grow while also layering its skill sets.
“It’s nice to feel like we’re able to give something back,” she says. “As lawyers, we have to be curious and ask a lot of questions to make sure we’re giving the best legal advice we can. My goal is to continue to develop and motivate my team to be strategic business partners and help move RB forward. We’re updating our skill set so we can keep learning and be the best we can be, both individually and on our teams.”
Barclay Damon’s team of attorneys works across offices and practices that include intellectual property, labor and employment, business and finance, real estate and project development, public finance, and commercial and civil litigation, among numerous other areas, to provide customized, targeted solutions grounded in industry knowledge and a deep understanding of our clients’ business. With nearly 300 attorneys, Barclay Damon is a leading regional law firm that operates from a strategic platform of offices located in the Northeastern United States and Toronto.
Our intellectual property litigation attorneys are trial tested, with decades of combined experience. We help clients prevail in cases involving multimillion-dollar jury verdicts, court orders, and settlements. Our experience includes matters involving patents, copyrights, trademarks, unfair competition, domain names, and trade secrets. The team appears across the country in US district courts, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and other appellate courts, the US Patent and Trademark Office, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, the US International Trade Commission (ITC), and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Our geographic platform provides a cost advantage to clients, allowing us to offer fee structures with highly competitive rates while maintaining the quality of representation clients require.
“Congratulations to Kelly on this well-deserved recognition. I have had the benefit of knowing Kelly for many years, and I am continuously impressed by her innovative leadership and her work to positively impact both her community and the dynamic teams she creates in the workplace.”
—Erica Klein, Shareholder
Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP:
“Kelly is a joy to partner with – we value her global, practical and creative thinking in solving business and legal issues.”
—Robert Platt, Partner
Satterlee Stephens LLP:
“It has been our pleasure to work with Kelly Slavitt for over eight years. She expects that outside counsel understand the needs of the business and become a partner to reach company goals, just as she partners with the business people she counsels. Her ability to understand and balance complex legal issues with the needs of the business, coupled with her strategic thinking, make her invaluable. Whether we have been working together on an acquisition, a corporate restructuring, a visa, an intellectual property litigation or day-to-day counseling matters, Kelly keeps focused on both big picture and small details to achieve results.”
—Mark Lerner, Partner
“Reckitt Benckiser’s commitment to developing innovative products has afforded me many opportunities to work with Kelly and witness her aptitude for devising creative solutions to practical issues. Her forward-thinking strategies and ability to balance business and legal objectives has allowed RB to maintain its status as an industry leader.
Everyone on her team, whether in house or outside counsel, benefits from her knowledge and inclusive leadership style. Working alongside Kelly is always a rewarding experience.”
—Dominick Conde, Co-Chair of the IP Division