Star Power

Winner of the 2019 Magna Stella Award, Mindy Harper advises and advocates for both her team and Mattress Firm as a whole

Mindy Harper is a star. That is, she won the Texas General Counsel Forum’s Magna Stella Award in 2019, a coveted prize that designates Harper as a leader in the legal community. Indeed, as vice president and senior litigation counsel at Mattress Firm, the largest specialty mattress retailer in the United States, Harper has dazzled those around her with her litigation expertise, her strategic vision, and her commitment to putting a halt to unfair business practices.

Even a Star Needs a Team

Harper has made a profound impression on both her Mattress Firm colleagues and outside partners since joining the company’s legal team just a few years back. “‘[M]agna stella’ means ‘magnificent star,’ and that is an apt description for . . . Mindy and [her] work handling litigation for our client Mattress Firm,” remarked John B. Thomas in a press release. Thomas is the cofounder of Hicks Thomas, the firm that nominated Harper for the Magna Stella Award.

Active in the Arts

In addition to fiercely advocating for both her team and her entire organization at Mattress Firm, Mindy Harper is an active proponent of the arts. She has previously served as a board member of Opera in the Heights, a Texas-based nonprofit dedicated to helping emerging opera artists find career-defining opportunities to perform. She currently serves as a board member for the Houston Boychoir, a community organization that offers a musical education to all young boys eager to learn about music reading, music history, music theory, and other aspects of vocal performance.

“Mindy’s among the best in-house counsel I’ve had the pleasure to work with,” Thomas says. “She has nerves of steel and easily translates complex litigation into the language of business, making her an asset to her clients and outside counsel alike.”

“Complex” may be putting it nicely. In her role as senior litigation counsel, Harper oversees a dizzying array of litigation and claims related to Mattress Firm’s 2,500-plus retail stores. On any given day, she may be managing commercial disputes with competitors or landlords, supervising intellectual property and trademark matters, or directing the company’s approach to consumer disputes.

To keep atop of her many and varied responsibilities, Harper relies on her colleagues in the legal department. According to the VP, Mattress Firm’s legal team is primarily composed of women and includes many mothers. Everyone on the team is highly supportive of one another, Harper emphasizes, and is always eager to collaborate.

Mattress Firm’s legal team is led by Executive Vice President and General Counsel Kindel Elam, who overlapped with Harper during her stint at Fulbright & Jaworski (now known as Norton Rose Fulbright). In her seven years with that firm, Harper honed her litigation expertise, eventually rising to a position as senior associate thanks to her adept handling of commercial, product, personal injury, and insurance coverage litigation matters.

Responsibility Is the Name of the Game

In addition to leading the litigation function, Harper also serves on Mattress Firm’s safety committee. In that role, she regularly coordinates with the company’s risk management, customer service, and loss prevention teams to resolve operational issues and mitigate risk.

Harper is well acquainted with the requirements of this position, given the two years she spent as a senior risk management counsel for Baker Hughes, but it is by no means a role she takes lightly. In fact, in May 2018, Harper joined a panel of speakers organized by the University of Texas School of Law for the 40th annual Corporate Counsel Institute so that she could expound upon the importance of responsibly navigating business risks.

During the conference, Harper and her fellow panelists spoke to the many legal and business challenges associated with natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey. They discussed the various lessons that business leaders can and should learn from the fallout of such incidents, particularly highlighting the need to maintain positive relationships with employees as well as the public.

No individual, Harper and the other panelists argued, should be terminated from their position simply because they were trapped in a hurricane and were thus unable to come to the office. No business, they emphasized, should mark up the prices of essential supplies such as bottled water when the community is still suffering from the fallout of a hurricane.

To be sure, no organization should go without the expertise, vision, and guidance of a leader like Harper.

Everyone Deserves a Good Night’s Sleep

One reason Mindy Harper has found such a good fit at Mattress Firm is the clear alignment between her commitment to giving back and the company’s. Over the years, Mattress Firm has engaged in a number of initiatives designed to engage with local communities, including the Mattress Firm Foster Kids program.

Founded in 2015 through a partnership with the Ticket to Dream Foundation, Mattress Firm Foster Kids aims to help foster kids around the country stay healthy and do well in school by getting a good night’s sleep. Through this program, Mattress Firm provides various charities and nonprofits with both monetary contributions and “sleep essentials” like pajamas, toys, and books.

The program has been a rousing success. And in 2016, renowned gymnast Simone Biles partnered with Mattress Firm Foster Kids to help spread the word about how everyone can support the more than four hundred thousand children who call the US foster system home.

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Larson • King, LLP:

“As outside counsel, I’ve observed Mindy leading her team with grace and humility. It is truly a delight and privilege to work with Mindy.”

 –Mark Solheim, Partner