The class was serious. Two days a week, Bruce Daise drove to a local H&R Block office for tax prep boot camp. He sat with a dozen other students interested in mastering tax preparation and nuanced tax filing requirements. After each three-hour session, Daise returned home loaded with pages of notes and hours of homework. After twelve weeks of instruction, he passed the final exam. The hard work paid off—Daise qualified to interview for a job as a tax preparer at H&R Block.
Daise didn’t apply for the job; he was already busy doing legal work for the organization. The vice president, deputy general counsel, and chief privacy officer joined the iconic global consumer tax services provider in 2003. He took the official H&R Block Income Tax Course, which the company has been offering since 1978, to improve his own job performance. “Sometimes busy lawyers can get isolated at ‘corporate,’ which may lead to decisions being made in a vacuum,” Daise says. “But I knew that I would make better decisions if I could gain perspective and more fully appreciate what impacts our tax preparers in the field.”
While the decision to enroll in the course may sound like a setup from Undercover Boss, it doesn’t surprise anyone who knows him well. A willingness to take on tough challenges, enthusiasm for teamwork, and commitment to service have come to define his life and career. A love of football and basketball in his youth helped nurture these passions.
“I played team sports throughout school and enjoyed being a part of something bigger than myself,” Daise explains. “Athletics showed me how important every member of the team is. Each person has a role to play, and we can only win if each person understands and executes his or her role well.”
The Midwest native attended Bethany College and the University of Kansas School of Law. Upon graduation, he joined Bombardier Learjet to support procurement and spent two years at law firm Martin Pringle before taking his first in-house legal generalist role with Bayer in 2000. Right away, Daise noticed parallels between his corporate position and his time on the football field. “I had my first chance to become a true expert in a company,” he says, “and do my part to help the team achieve its strategic vision.” At that point, Daise knew that he had found his calling.
Two years later, he joined Sprint to provide legal support for its wireless communications services. The role was very specialized, focusing on business-to-business marketing and contract negotiations for large corporate accounts. The work, while rewarding, was relatively narrow in focus. Daise was one of hundreds of lawyers the telecommunications giant counted on to complete repeatable transactions and processes countless times every fiscal quarter. Although he was becoming a deep expert in his area, he was looking for the chance to broaden his role and make a bigger impact across an entire organization.
That’s when an acquaintance told Daise that H&R Block needed someone to help run the day-to-day legal function for a wholly owned subsidiary known as RSM McGladrey. He would be responsible for providing legal support to the company in all areas across the board. It was a chance he couldn’t pass up.
H&R Block eventually divested RSM McGladrey, but Daise had found a home at the legacy company, which he says has been a perfect fit. “I love it at H&R Block because we have a local and global scope, but we’ve built a great reputation in our communities and retained our hometown feel,” Daise explains.
Although the company generates about $3 billion in annual revenue, has eighty thousand employees during tax season, and has prepared more than eight hundred million tax returns, its headquarters are still on Main Street in Kansas City, not far from where brothers Henry and Richard Bloch founded the company in 1955.
“Sometimes busy lawyers can get isolated at ‘corporate,’ which may lead to decisions being made in a vacuum. But I knew that I would make better decisions if I could gain perspective and more fully appreciate what impacts our tax preparers in the field.”
Now, as deputy general counsel and chief privacy officer, Daise leads the US client services and international group, with legal oversight responsibility for H&R Block’s global assisted and DIY tax return preparation businesses. He and his team focus on numerous specialty areas, such as privacy and data security, intellectual property, marketing and advertising, business development, franchising, real estate, and strategic sourcing.
“Bruce dissects complex legal issues with surgical precision,” say Antonio Dias and Courtney Snyder, partners in Jones Day’s global financial markets practice. “He’s a seasoned professional, expecting us to deliver what he does—a mastery of the law, effective communication, and practical advice. It’s been a solid partnership!”
As Daise has progressed at H&R Block, he’s favored roles with a broad span and tried to avoid positions limited to one specific area. He wanted to become a generalist, a goal Daise says requires certain concessions. “Members of my team are sometimes deeper subject matter experts in their legal areas than I am, but I leverage my leadership skills and my big-picture strategic perspective to help put all the pieces together in a way that works best for the company,” he explains.
Members of Daise’s teams can take advantage of the many growth opportunities he provides. “I’ve stayed here for nearly two decades because I’ve constantly been asked to take on challenges and learn new skills, and that makes this job rewarding. I try to pass those opportunities on to others,” he says.
“Members of my team are sometimes deeper subject matter experts in their legal areas than I am, but I leverage my leadership skills and my big-picture strategic perspective to help put all the pieces together in a way that works best for the company.”
About fifteen years ago, Daise accepted the opportunity to oversee an important and emerging area—data privacy. Although the assignment was an add-on to another role, the area turned out to be instrumental to his career. Daise now leads a complex privacy program that is critical to the company’s successful operation and evolution.
That evolution revolves around an ever-expanding portfolio of services. When it comes to tax returns, today’s clients have more options than ever before. They can file their own returns online, file online with professional help, upload documents and let a tax pro complete the return, drop off documents for professional assistance, or sit down on-site for a traditional one-on-one meeting. As the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors change consumer behavior, H&R Block is looking to continue its expansion of digital solutions. Daise and his team are “intimately involved” anytime the company launches a new product or expanded services.
Although Daise’s legacy knowledge of the company and its prior initiatives helps, he’s careful about how he leverages that information. “It’s great to become an internal expert on your own company, but that knowledge shouldn’t become an obstacle,” he says. “It’s important to apply the learning but not assume the same conclusion.”
Daise is always willing to reevaluate an idea that may not have worked before when times and circumstances have changed. He has also worked overtime to develop strong relationships with his colleagues and make sure people in all departments are willing to come to legal with questions, ideas, problems, and concerns. He’s seen time and time again that the most engaged legal teams become the most effective legal teams.
These, of course, are the kinds of lessons one can only learn through experience. Daise says up-and-coming lawyers, especially those in generalist roles, should always be willing to try something new. “Be ready to say ‘yes’ to the tough problems,” he says. “Get comfortable with the fact that you don’t always have to be a subject matter expert in everything. Instead, become an expert in your company. Develop a service-oriented, creative approach. Be resilient. And most importantly, never stop learning.”
Jones Day is a global law firm with more than 2,500 lawyers in forty-three offices across five continents. The firm is distinguished by a singular tradition of client service; the mutual commitment to, and the seamless collaboration of, a true partnership; formidable legal talent across multiple disciplines and jurisdictions; and shared professional values that focus on client needs. Clients tap our experience on complex transactions, high-stakes litigation, cybersecurity, capital markets activities, regulatory compliance, tax issues, and virtually every other type of legal matter impacting the modern national or multinational corporation.
Our global financial markets team comprises more than three hundred lawyers with deep experience in complex cross-border transactions, investigations, regulatory matters, and litigation and brings insight into market developments and trends on issues such as the rise of private capital and the growth of financial technology. We also have a deep regulatory bench—many with long-standing relationships at financial services regulatory agencies across the globe—advising on compliance, investigations, and enforcement issues.