Deryl Ward’s leadership philosophy is born of personal experience: one of the main lessons he teaches his direct reports, he says, is that being exposed to new things is the best way to build skills, experience, and confidence. When Ward was hired at Builders FirstSource in 2003 as senior contracts manager, his experience was as a litigator—working for a leading supplier of building products, components, and value-added services in the US was an entirely new experience for him.
“When I went in-house [at Builders FirstSource] my main focus was to negotiate construction contracts for a $1.7 billion company, and I had never done it,” Ward says. “My first task at this company was to learn something totally new and become an expert in it as quickly as I could.”
Seventeen years later, Ward is vice president and deputy general counsel for Builders FirstSource, which is now a Fortune 500 company, but he still vividly remembers his first few years on the job. “They were growing quickly, acquiring eighteen businesses in eighteen months, and needed a more formalized process for contracts. I established rules regarding their content, who could sign them, and who should review them,” he explains. Those efforts were put to the test in 2005, when the company launched its $2.3 billion IPO. The internal controls that Ward helped establish assisted the company in meeting the Sarbanes-Oxley requirements in that area without any compliance infractions.
Ward also helped facilitate Builders’ $1.6 billion acquisition of ProBuild Holdings in 2015. He was integral to the extensive due diligence and integration process and designing the organizational structure for the newly combined legal department. (Builders had four people in its legal department before the acquisition; it now has fourteen.) “That was a transformative acquisition for us,” Ward notes. “ProBuild was three times larger than Builders. We had operations in nine states; they were in forty. We went from reviewing 700 contracts a year to 4,000.”
Ward spent considerable time studying how ProBuild conducted its business and mitigated risk. “To make sure I understood everything properly, I worked in the ProBuild legal department for one month after the close,” he says. “All that effort ensured a smooth transition throughout the process.”
One of the things Ward enjoys most about his job is that he’s constantly given opportunities to grow—both as an attorney and a manager. “The culture at Builders FirstSource is one where we really value capabilities,” he says, “so it’s a fertile ground for people that want to expand their skills, expand their knowledge, and expand their confidence.”
And as a manager, Ward takes his leadership role very seriously. “It’s my responsibility to provide the best career path that I can here at the company and to be a mentor, be a source of information, and also to make sure that they are challenged and grow as attorneys and managers,” he says.
Ward emphasizes to his direct reports that Builders FirstSource is a company that cares about its people, their development, and their careers. He strives to have that development occur in a culture that has been focused by his leadership on fostering teamwork and cohesiveness. Although on a daily basis he has many challenging responsibilities to deal with, Ward says he prioritizes his time in a manner that allows him to mentor team members on how to achieve their professional goals and meet the expectations of a rapidly evolving, successful company.
Ward says the dedicated leadership philosophy he follows has been one of the catalysts that has helped create a legal department that consistently provides cutting-edge advice and counsel to its corporate constituency. Looking forward, Ward’s overriding goal is to continue to assist in the process of developing and cultivating a legal department of consummate professionals.
Another facet of Ward’s leadership philosophy involves working on philanthropic projects with his colleagues. The legal department has won the company’s food drive twice. In 2018, they collected more than 14,000 pounds of food for the North Texas Food Bank. More recently, the department adopted three families as part of the company’s support of the Family Place, which helps victims of domestic violence. “Giving back to one’s community is the right thing to do,” Ward says, “and doing it with other members of the team strengthens our bonds both personally and professionally.”
How does Ward handle such a wide variety of tasks so successfully? “I’ve become adept at taking on new areas of law and becoming a subject matter expert in those areas,” he says. “To make that happen, two things are critically important: time and focus. You’ve got to make time to find the right resources and then study them completely.
“In addition to book knowledge,” he continues, “it often helps to contact someone who has experience with similar situations and ask them to ‘download’ to me what they know. That’s one reason why nurturing relationships and helping others when they ask is so important. It takes a lot of discipline and a focus on efficiency, though. These days, you have to guard your time with great diligence so you can focus on things that will drive the success of those you lead, mentor, and provide counsel to.”
Builders FirstSource partner Goldberg Segalla is one of the largest and fastest-growing Am Law 200 firms headquartered in the U.S., with a footprint reaching from Los Angeles to London. With more than four hundred attorneys and teams based in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, St. Louis, and other major business and economic centers across ten states, Goldberg Segalla is positioned to assist large, industry-leading companies like Builders FirstSource with virtually any legal need—from complex commercial litigation and bet-the-company claims to transactions, employment counsel, risk management, and regulatory concerns.
The firm’s over seventy-lawyer construction practice, under the direction of chair Christopher J. Belter, is stacked with trial attorneys, experienced construction litigators, and trusted counselors to the largest suppliers, contractors, and other players in the industry nationwide. With robust construction defect litigation capabilities—and experience serving as litigation and trial counsel in high-stakes matters, monitoring counsel for claims in jurisdictions across the country, and expert consultants on design and construction coverage issues—Goldberg Segalla’s construction practice also includes deep benches representing worksite injury defense, rapid response, OSHA, and other services.
Longtime clients rely on the same level of collaborative, proactive, and cost-effective counsel from other firm practices, including trucking, employment and labor, product liability, and more. This consistency of service across the firm’s footprint and diverse practices derives from a commitment to the same foundational value that inspires leaders like Builders FirstSource’s Deryl Ward—to be excellent professionals, and even better human beings.
“I am so proud to work with Deryl, and I know his colleagues at Builders FirstSource feel the same. He is inspiring to be around. His leadership, sophistication, and long-term view, coupled with his broad experience, help achieve optimum outcomes in pending litigation.”
–Neil Goldberg, Partner