Richard Diegnan Builds a Stronger Structure

Richard Diegnan helps position INAP for success, turning potential stumbling blocks like Chapter 11 proceedings into opportunities for restructuring and growth

Executive Vice President, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary Richard Diegnan of INAP knows how to turn setbacks into success.

INAP, headquartered in Reston, Virginia, provides performance-driven, full-spectrum data center and cloud solutions. Diegnan recognizes that the legal team should work hand in hand with sales, procurement, and business units to provide optimal legal risk-benefit analysis that increases revenue and efficiency. Diegnan’s leadership and counsel have proven crucial through turbulent times for the organization.

In 2015, INAP was amid restructuring after the company was unable to find a buyer. Peter Aquino came on as CEO to turn things around. Aquino needed someone to revamp the law department, which was operating with just two in-house attorneys at the time.

Richard Diegnan, EVP, General Counsel, and Corporate Secretary, INAP Photo by Laura Kuah

Diegnan had the ideal profile, given his extensive experience as a general counsel for various companies, his work in private practice, and most important, his background in sales from his time working as an account executive at AT&T. After joining the company in 2016, he expanded the team to four lawyers, refocused the corporate counsel role to be more sales oriented, and hired lawyers with securities and real estate expertise to better serve the law department’s most important client—the company.

The INAP law department seeks to provide more services to the company, such as a more robust compliance function that includes corporate policy management, privacy advice, and enterprise risk management. These services are in addition to the more routine responsibilities of legal, like assisting in sales and procurement negotiations.

“My philosophy is that the law department is there to serve the company with an important focus on sales,” Diegnan says. “To me, every person is a salesperson, and ultimately the success of a company is directly tied to being able to effectively market and sell its products and services.” He is very aware of the negative clichés associated with lawyers in business and is determined to keep his team from falling into those tropes.

“I don’t want salespeople to say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to get my law department involved. Can we do it another way?’” Diegnan says. “We don’t want to be a bottleneck to getting things done.”

Feedback from sales and other departments demonstrates the contributions Diegnan and his team have made to the company. “We pride ourselves on being approachable, and we want to be an aid to negotiations rather than a barrier. We always negotiate to ‘yes,’” Diegnan explains. “We try to be flexible in our thinking, directly engage with customers’ counsel, and use risk-based analysis to help win deals.”

Diegnan’s leadership style fosters this strategy. He trusts his team and empowers them to take the initiatives that lead to efficiency. “I don’t like to micromanage,” he explains. “If it’s a big enough decision that it requires my input, I will be involved from the beginning.” He believes that his approach allows for his team to grow and develop, which ultimately speeds up the process when it comes to procurement and winning deals.

He encourages his team to think about how they can better serve the company’s goals and act accordingly. “I like to treat legal decisions as business decisions,” affirms Diegnan. “I think about what is most cost-effective, what is efficient from a time perspective, while supporting and protecting the company.”

“I like to treat legal decisions as business decisions. I think about what is most cost-effective, what is efficient from a time perspective, while supporting and protecting the company.”

In March 2020, INAP filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Combined with the onset of a global pandemic, this turn of events could have been enough to scare off lenders, customers, and vendors in one fell swoop.

However, thanks to Diegnan’s counsel, INAP was in and out of bankruptcy in just fifty-three days. All the courtroom proceedings took place over teleconference. INAP used the restructuring capabilities of Chapter 11 to significantly reduce its debt and better position the company for the future.

Diegnan attributes a lot of this success to negotiating a prepackaged Chapter 11 bankruptcy solution, which allowed INAP to get in front of the issue. The company had the benefit of negotiating the terms of the bankruptcy with lenders ahead of time, securing their support and confidence. “Our lenders were in agreement before we filed, which helped us maintain a lot of the value of the company,” Diegnan says, “We avoided many lawsuits and were able to preserve our customers and make our vendors whole.”

During the Chapter 11 proceedings, Diegnan and his team rejected the leases that were no longer beneficial to the company, restructured contractual agreements, and sold assets. The bankruptcy process ended up putting the organization in a much better position for the future.

Diegnan believes that the legal team should work hard to be engaged on the front end of negotiations as they come around. A legal function seamlessly integrated into business operations is an asset to the growth of any company.

Diegnan’s strategy and commitment to a sales-oriented legal team have aided INAP in quickly regaining its footing. And they continue to be key ingredients in the success of the company as INAP moves forward.

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Jenner & Block:

“Rich is always cool under pressure and brings superb judgment and experience to the legal function. In addition, despite his busy schedule, he somehow finds time to contribute in meaningful ways to civic activities.”

–Tom Monson, Partner and Cochair, Corporate Practice and the Mergers and Acquisitions Practice