Though headquartered in the Netherlands, DLL calls Iowa home for true consumer finance along with the company’s US construction business unit and food and agriculture business unit, among others.
But the Midwest location that felt more like an island than an arm of a global business has expanded on a massive scale. The expansion resulted in newly promoted legal director Ben Copley working to fill roles on his team in one of the tightest labor pools in recent history.
“Since July 2021, I’ve hired four different attorneys,” says Copley, not so much weary as relieved to be where he is currently. “The pandemic and the truly bizarre labor market was a significant challenge, especially as I was stepping into a role where I feel like I still have a lot of maturing to do.”
If you’re picking up on the legendary Midwest modesty, that’s Ben Copley to a tee. The nearly ten-year veteran at DLL has grown up in the business and has had the opportunity to branch out in new directions as it has continued to grow.
The lawyer spent the early chunk of his career in transactional law, but eventually had the opportunity to take on shared services duties like cybersecurity, privacy, corporate governance, and regulatory matters.
“I had one manager in particular here who was so great at providing us opportunities,” Copley explains. “She helped keep us up to speed and made us feel materially important to the business. DLL is a place where I feel like we are empowered to grow our careers with a lot of support around us.”
Since stepping into the director role, Copley has been sprinting to get his team back to full speed. Between backfilling his role and working to build out the new headcount for his team, the director is just starting to feel like his team can try and get ahead of the curve. The team’s new additions are the first round of hires who are helping DLL establish a new normal when it comes to “going” to work.
Copley says between the current opportunities in private practice and the quickly shifting environment of remote work, the lawyer had to rethink recruiting for his team. “We expanded our recruiting footprint to include the entirety of the US, so that we could take advantage of talent that would be the right cultural fit for DLL as long as they were comfortable working remotely,” Copley explains.
Culture was the key differentiator. Subject matter expertise, while greatly valued, is more of an expectation than a differentiator. Moreover, Copley says he’s much more apt to vie for a candidate capable of learning on the job, and whose work style and personality fit are the right fit.
“I tried to fill our team with people who are easy to approach, comfortable approaching others, and are both willing to ask for help and lend a hand when they can,” the director says. “I think we’ve done that, and I think the best part is that while the team fits that profile, everybody’s a little bit different.”
With his team finally assembled, Copley says he wants his team to be able to work as proactively as they can, not always the first word that comes to mind when one thinks of a legal team being constantly inundated with new challenges.
The business operates nationwide so Copley says it’s imperative for his team to create guidance for the business when it comes to compliance and operating standards in individual states. Creating those self-help resources would free up the legal team to work on higher-level matters and act as more of a partner to the broader business. “I call this ‘working in the margins,’” Copley says. “It’s a chance to not just provide good legal advice that can be easily accessible, but it allows us to add more value to the business process itself.”
The legal director is also very clear with the team members about where their priorities should lie, and his direction might be surprising. “It might seem a little funny to say this, but I always tell our team that if your job at DLL is number one on your priority list, you need to take a time out and reconsider what you’re doing,” the director says. “We’re all incredibly dedicated and very proud to do what we do, but it’s my opinion that this should never be the most important thing in your life. It’s part of my recruiting strategy, frankly, to find people who are not going to prioritize work to their personal detriment.”
Copley may feel like he’s got a lot of growing to do, but it’s clear that he knows the value he wants his team to add, and he knows how to get there.