Michael Licker Focuses on the Big Picture

Michael Licker takes a holistic approach to process efficiency in the newly created role of head of litigation and investigations at Wayfair

When Michael Licker was young, his mother told him he might someday be a good lawyer. “She told me I was very argumentative, and that I liked to go back and forth,” he says with a laugh. “She meant it in a good way, but I thought you could probably say that about any kid.”

But the law wasn’t on Licker’s radar. He loved sports and wanted to be a sportswriter. He attended Syracuse University, which boasts one of the nation’s top journalism schools. But at some point, he realized that a sports reporter’s lifestyle was not one he wanted in the long term.

“I loved everything about sports writing,” he says, “but I wanted to do something that would be more impactful to me.”

Michael Licker, Head of Litigation and Investigations, Wayfair Courtesy of Foley Hoag

A required journalism class about libel and First Amendment protections for journalists fascinated him. “From that point forward,” he says, “I thought, ‘Maybe I ought to go to law school.’”

Licker’s newfound interest in law was stoked when, after attending law school, he clerked for a year for the Honorable James Duggan of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. “It was a really fun year,” he says. “I saw a lot of lawyers in action, good and bad, and learned a lot from that.”

Licker became so close to Duggan that he invited the judge to his wedding. “He answered questions I had about the profession and guided me,” he says of his mentor.

Today, Licker is the head of litigation and investigations for Boston-based Wayfair. He came to the e-commerce purveyor of furniture and home goods following almost nine years with Foley Hoag, where he made partner.

“I wasn’t actively looking to leave,” he says. “I remember it clearly. I was on vacation last June—the first time during the pandemic that our family was able to get away. I was scrolling through LinkedIn and I saw the job posting. I thought that if I was to leave my then-current job, this would be the opportunity for me and that I needed to explore this.”

The opportunity was to oversee all litigation and government investigations. What made the position especially attractive to him was that he would have a chance to shape the role and develop the function. He would be able to make the kind of impact he envisioned when he first transitioned from sports writing.

This role, unprecedented in the company, brought with it several challenges. Licker joined Wayfair during the pandemic. “For the first eleven months I was with the company, I worked remotely,” he says.

But here, he had an advantage. Licker initially came to Boston with his future wife, who was attending grad school there. One of the jobs he took before attending Northeastern University School of Law was in customer service with CSN Stores, the precursor to Wayfair. “Customer service helped me develop an understanding not only of the customer experience, but also the customer representatives’ experience.”

“The bigger a company gets, the bigger a target it becomes. I foresee in the next five years, between building our team, process efficiency, and automizing, we will become an even more well-oiled machine.”

Appreciating that dynamic has been very helpful for Licker as he focuses on the big picture, he says. “Wayfair already did a lot of things really well, and I came into the company looking for ways to build on and improve that groundwork.”

Licker takes a holistic view of his role in the company, which he divides into three “bullet points.” The first is to identify risk and determine how to proactively mitigate it. The second is to handle litigation and investigations cost-effectively and with minimal interruption to the company’s business partners. The third is to seek ways to do things more efficiently.

One example, he says, is processing complaints Wayfair sometimes receives that certain products on its website infringe on the intellectual property of a third party. “We are completely changing the way we process those claims to become more efficient and less manual,” he says. “The bigger a company gets, the bigger a target it becomes. I foresee in the next five years, between building our team, process efficiency, and automizing, we will become an even more well-oiled machine.”

“It has been a true pleasure to work with Mike on several successful matters,” says Roberto Braceras, a partner at Goodwin Procter. “He is thoughtful and strategic, he welcomes the insights of others, and he adds real value without micromanaging. Mike is a litigator’s litigator.”

“This company’s values are in the right place in the way it treats its employees. It’s a dynamic and fascinating place to work.”

Licker was born in Poughkeepsie, New York. He is a self-proclaimed die-hard Yankees fan. Boston, home to the dreaded Red Sox, “was the last city in the country I would have picked to live,” he jokes. While he has come to love the city, he retains his loyalty to the pinstripes. He and his wife of ten years are raising their two sons, aged six and four, to be Yankees fans. “They have a blast at Red Sox games parading around in their Yankees hats and jerseys,” he says.

In his spare time, Licker serves on the board of a nonprofit, Casa Myrna Vazquez, that helps survivors of domestic violence. He was introduced to the organization by a former law school classmate who worked for them. He ran the Boston Marathon on the nonprofit’s behalf and did pro bono legal work before becoming a board member.

Now entering his second year with Wayfair, he is excited about the future. “Everything is a new challenge,” he says, “and this company’s values are in the right place in the way it treats its employees. It’s a dynamic and fascinating place to work.”

Do he and his wife take advantage of any Wayfair employee discounts? “We definitely order our share of things,” he says with a laugh.

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Zuckerman Spaeder LLP:

“Like his colleagues, Michael is smart, pragmatic, and fun to work with—he brings keen insights as well as a sense of humor to his role as Wayfair’s first-ever head of litigation and investigations.”

–Kate Duval, Partner