Jonas Bruzas wasn’t a lawyer yet when he began his career with Mondelēz International in 1994 as a sales representative in Lithuania—back then, the company was still called Kraft Foods, and the world had just opened up after the “iron curtain” came down. Since then, he’s gone to law school—twice—and is now vice president and chief counsel of global law, IP, and operations for Mondelēz International at its global headquarters in Chicago.
“I started at the company as a sales rep, when I was still going to the law school in Lithuania,” Bruzas says. “I wanted my independence, and earning my own money was the key. It wasn’t until after I joined that I started really loving this company.”
Now, after more than twenty-five years with the company, he has nothing but positive things to say about both the culture of the company and the type of people who work there.
“This company really encourages people to follow their passions, and the people here work hard to get where they want to be. That hard work pays off, both for the company and for our colleagues,” he says. In fact, Bruzas himself is a testament to the fact that Mondelēz International helps its employees grow and progress throughout their careers.
When Bruzas first began in the company’s sales department, he excelled and was quickly promoted to country manager for Estonia and Latvia. But as he considered what he wanted to do with a law degree, he realized that his passion was the law rather than sales. He liked the idea of staying with the company, so he applied and was appointed to a newly opened in-house position at what was then Kraft Foods Lithuania.
“I wanted to be working in-house because I like being involved in making certain decisions that are not purely legal, and that allowed me to continue to be a part of the business team. I also like that you can see the entire life cycle of a project,” Bruzas says.
Bruzas created and worked in the Lithuanian law department of the company. Soon he was promoted to a regional role and worked out of Vienna at the regional headquarters of the company for Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. In 2005 he joined Mondelēz’s headquarters in Chicago, where he has since earned several promotions. He also spent about three years in Miami as vice president and chief counsel to the company’s Latin American operations—further expanding the long list of countries he’s worked in—and has been settled into his current position since his return from Miami in 2019.
After moving to the United States for work, Bruzas wanted to become as well versed in US common law as he is in the European civil law system, so he decided to go back to law school and earned his second legal degree from the Loyola University Chicago School of Law.
“I learned a lot in law school in Europe, but I hadn’t learned the fundamentals of the American legal system, and I couldn’t learn them without going to law school,” Bruzas says. “Simple things like legal research and legal writing in the common law system are very different from my European legal experience and how things are done in in a civil law system. To know both legal systems is now invaluable for my work.”
He now feels entirely confident in US legal doctrine, but he also believes it’s important to continue to understand and consider the international lens. This also helps him maintain a close connection to his European roots while working in the United States.
“I am a proponent of an open, global business environment. I believe in the benefits of bringing cultures together at work and thrive when work crosses borders of various countries,” Bruzas says. “Working and practicing law both in the European Union and in the US and feeling home on both sides of the Atlantic has been an experience that has formed me into who I am today: an international lawyer.”
There are certain challenges that come from a career in global law, however: in a way, the sun never sets, and there is always something happening that requires his attention. He has to understand and accommodate the time differences and schedules of other countries—which has been particular challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic, when everything had to be organized from his own home. For those interested in a similar career, he’d recommend starting with smaller global projects first. Still, jumping into the deep end worked for him, and he doesn’t have any regrets.
“I am really happy. It is my dream job. This is what I always wanted to do,” Bruzas says. “There is room for growth and development and even expanding your role, like getting into new areas of law or getting into a new project. At the moment, I’m focused on continuing to learn and grow my current role.”
“I’ve worked with Jonas Bruzas for seventeen years. Jonas brings an incredibly wide array of legal and commercial skills to every strategically important business priority he tackles—like developing ways for Mondelez’s joint ventures to succeed, protecting its crown jewel IP assets, and helping it deal with the unique challenges of COVID.”
–Michael J. Wagner, Partner