Claire Battle describes her career trajectory as nonlinear. After graduating with a degree in social policy, she felt unsure of her next move, but one thing was for certain.
“I was debating whether to continue on in academia or do something else, and at the end of the day, I didn’t want to be in the ivory tower; I wanted to solve problems,” she recalls. Many years later, after joining CNH Industrial as senior managing counsel of North America litigation and supply chain, that’s exactly what Battle does.
The lawyer describes herself as a precocious child with a penchant for avid reading. Before long, her nights watching the occasional episode of Crossfire with her dad blossomed into a multifaceted legal career, and Battle’s responsibilities now include managing product liability matters, commercial disputes, and labor and employment issues, as well as being responsible for all commercial contracts, M&A, and strategic alliances. Not to mention a bevy of other obligations.
Prior to joining CNH Industrial, Battle accrued an eleven-plus year tenure at ArcelorMittal USA, wearing a number of hats from legal and senior counsel to assistant general counsel. “I was very early in my career, and it was quite the baptism by fire, but I learned that I really did enjoy having a seat at that table [with company decision makers],” she reflects.
Battle adds while she admires her colleagues, subject-matter experts and niche practitioners, at ArcelorMittal she found that she enjoyed being a generalist. “I enjoy getting to have that variety in my day—then also being able to zoom out and have a broader enterprise view of the company,” Battle says.
When asked what attracted her to join CNH Industrial in 2020, Battle describes the company’s storied history. “You go back to Jerome Increase Case back in the 1800s, coming up with the some of the early threshing machines and the historic brands that have led into other product lines,” she marvels. “It’s been exciting to learn about a new industry after spending more than decade in steel and to come to a company that literally operates in 180 countries worldwide and with a really foundational history—particularly on the agricultural side.”
Battle believes that EQ is as important as IQ, especially when working in-house and especially around communication. “Bottom-line it. Make sure your analysis is something that can be read on a small screen or it might not get read at all,” she says. Diplomacy is also key. “You will have to surmise the risk of a proposed course of action, but you don’t want to be viewed as the ‘department of no.’ So, you need to have that diplomacy, choose your battles wisely, make sure you’re transparently communicating, recognize when it’s a business decision at the end of the day, and know when to be more flexible.”
Crediting her mentors for her current experience and success, Battle now seeks to give back in turn. In addition to honing her skills with a leadership coach and participating in mastermind coaching sessions with other female attorneys, she mentors first-year attorneys through the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism’s 2Civility program. She also participates in mentoring and leadership development programs via the iGlow group for women at CNH.
Battle advises young attorneys to network and seek out mentors early on. “Although it’s intimidating at first, really seek out those one-on-ones,” she says. “Try to grab a coffee with a senior associate or partner if you’re at a firm or other stakeholders or business partners if you’re in-house. Even better, make friends with the paralegal, who can tell you what’s really going on and how things actually get done.”
Not done yet, Battle remains excited about her future. “Now that I’ve found my sea legs at CNH, I’ve built relationships and found my footing with my responsibilities within the company,” she says. “It’s exciting to work for a company that’s growing, and we’ve got a CEO with a very distinct vision for how we grow. It’s been nice to see all that we’ve done. I look forward to continuing to build on that.”