With deep firm and in-house experience, seasoned attorney Devon Largio is able to succinctly point out one of the most overarching differences between practicing as a law firm litigator and finding success in-house. The current senior counsel of commercial litigation at McDonald’s Corporation spent nearly twelve years Kirkland & Ellis LLP, where she litigated on behalf of countless clients.
“When you’re at a firm, your job is to win the litigation for your client,” Largio explains. “But when you go in-house, it’s not just about a particular litigation. Your job expands and becomes about broadly protecting the company’s reputation and enabling the business.”
It’s also not just about reacting once an issue arises. Witnessing firsthand where litigation goes wrong, and just how far that can resonate down the line, is part of the reason she’s so good at her job now. To succeed in-house, it’s also about using those experiences to advise on how to mitigate risk while remembering that you are part of the business, too.
“That’s what is so empowering about this job,” she reflects. “It’s that responsibility and knowledge that the buck really stops with you. I feel things more personally than I did as outside counsel and get to take ownership in a way that is so much harder to do than in a law firm.”
For Largio, that sense of ownership has continued to extend since joining McDonald’s in 2019 and she remains committed to seeing the business from several perspectives. Recently, she covered for a colleague on McDonald’s business counsel team. She spent a handful of months acting as business counsel for one of McDonald’s East Coast field offices and interacted frequently with the leadership there. The day-to-day legal counseling allowed Largio to step outside of her comfort zone.
“A field office leader could call on any given day for advice about something you may or may not be familiar with,” Largio adds. “It was an opportunity to really think on my feet and build a closer relationship directly with the business.”
“Devon is a skilled litigator with a keen understanding of McDonald’s strategic business imperatives and corporate values,” says Liz McRee, coleader of Jones Day’s labor and employment practice.
At present, Largio is handling a variety of high-priority issues for the company. From overseeing a large-scale consumer fraud class action lawsuit to advising on various global and national franchising initiatives, she is a better partner to the teams she works with because of her constant focus on deepening her expertise.
That constant drive to gain new and diverse experiences has helped the senior counsel hit her stride. It’s made her both incredibly adept at delving quickly into a new issue, while teaching her the patience to admit when she needs to take a step back, learn more about an issue, and get back to her colleagues.
“The franchise work has given me the opportunity to work with cross-functional groups across the business,” she explains. “It’s been a chance to think strategically about how we design and implement important franchising changes both in the US and globally—it’s been fascinating in so many ways.”
Given the variety of matters Largio tackled at Kirkland & Ellis and, through a much broader lens, at McDonald’s, the attorney’s advice for young lawyers may not be surprising. If you want to go in-house at a global business as well-known as McDonald’s, she strongly advocates for gaining as many different experiences as possible and learning from anyone who is willing to teach you.
“I’m not sure I would have known how best to approach a matter with the quality that I do now if I hadn’t gone to trial and deposed witnesses,” she admits. “Even if it’s not something you think you want to do for the rest of your career, that on-your-feet experience is invaluable and will ultimately make you better at your job.”
“I was privileged to work with Devon on a complex matter and impressed by her collaborative approach to problem-solving,” says Amanda Sommerfeld, partner at Jones Day’s labor and employment practice.
Largio also believes advocating for yourself is crucial. Don’t be afraid to ask for new opportunities or work with people who you believe you can learn from. Largio actively sought out the business counsel coverage at McDonald’s because she knew it would ultimately make her a better business partner.
Finally, the lawyer reminds new lawyers to try to see the bigger picture. For Largio, that means regular trips with her husband and son to Disney World, fierce Peloton workouts, and a newfound love of Formula One racing.
Those varied activities seem to reflect the kind of lawyer Largio aspires to be: someone continually seeking out new ways to see the world.
“Devon is a talented litigator who brings intellectual firepower and keen judgment to every matter. We love working with Devon, who inspires us to find creative, business-oriented solutions to difficult problems.”
— Aileen McGrath, Partner