As regional head of legal for North America and general counsel, William Fawcett sits squarely in the legal function of Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS), the multinational corporate insurance carrier that Fawcett sees as Allianz’s most entrepreneurial business unit. However, Fawcett’s day-to-day is as grounded in the business itself as it is in the law.
“Ninety percent of what I do is not law,” Fawcett confirms. “It’s about looking out for other people’s interests, but more importantly, it’s about marketing ideas and communicating.”
Fawcett brings his own entrepreneurial spirit to AGCS, in addition the technical acumen he’s acquired over the course of his decades-long career. Since joining the company in February 2022, he has initiated a mindset shift within the legal team to achieve greater internal cohesion, reinforce relationships with the business and its clients, and empower individual contributors to shine in their current––and future––roles.
Fawcett got his start as a trial attorney specializing in complex white-collar crime cases. That early work ultimately landed him his first in-house position, at an insurance company he’d initially interacted with from the outside.
Moving in-house gave Fawcett a newfound appreciation for what was truly important to the business. “At each stage of my career, I’ve seen that you need to look outward, not inward,” he says. “One of the big misses I see with in-house counsel and even outside counsel is that they’re too introspective. They worry about what they’re doing, but there’s more to it than that.”
Fawcett continued to learn how best to serve the business in his subsequent in-house roles, three of which were at start-ups. “I cofounded Europe’s first 100 percent digital insurance company, St. Bernard,” he says of one such company. “I was the CEO, meaning that for the first time, I went from being the true dispenser of legal advice and information to the true consumer.”
Through experiencing both sides of the equation, Fawcett developed the business-oriented legal approach that he now applies at AGCS. He expects his team members to understand how their roles connect to the overarching business and how all of the pieces of the business come together––part of a concept he picked up during his time in the US Marine Corps that he calls “the passed review.”
“I want my direct reports to know what my concerns and priorities are and then to go out and give the passed review to the people who work for them. Once you understand where you fit in the larger picture, you can start making autonomous decisions and adding value,” Fawcett says. “You’ll never have to look for a client or a billable hour again if you understand what your client’s needs are, who their boss is, and who their stakeholders are.”
Since introducing the idea of the passed review, Fawcett has found his AGCS clients are more inclined to loop the legal team into their discussions. To keep moving in a positive direction, he urges his team to attend meetings within their assigned lines of business and to approach each situation with fresh eyes. “AGCS works with some of the biggest and best companies in the world, and we do things that no other insurance company can do,” he elaborates. “That requires us to think outside the box and question the way we do things.”
As a leader, Fawcett always puts his people first. He has broken down silos at AGCS to allow for clearer and more open communication, thereby fostering a greater sense of involvement across the legal team. “Not only do the folks working with me feel empowered but they also can see what their career path is,” he says. “These are generally bright people who like their job, and if you give them a little more insight so that they can self-direct, they take off running.”
Furthermore, Fawcett takes the time to identify the unique strengths of the team’s individual members––most of whom are not attorneys––and to listen to what they have to say. “I get great advice from my team. I don’t know the answers to everything, and I’m going to make mistakes, but they’ve all really stepped up to help me,” Fawcett emphasizes.
In time, Fawcett expects that all of AGCS will come to know the names of people like Robin Clover, Daphne Crockett, Ray Fisher, David Zeigler, and the many others who support him and the company on a daily basis. Until then, he plans to keep elevating their voices and praising their contributions. “If I could get everybody in my department promoted, that would be my greatest achievement,” he says.
Considering his clear dedication to his team and to AGCS as a business, Fawcett’s advice to fellow attorneys should come as no surprise. “Take whatever you want to do with law school and match it up with something that you’re interested in and passionate about,” he says. “In my case, I love the connection between the business and the law, and I love coming up with new ideas or businesses.”
“Getting to work with Will has been phenomenal,” says Rob Hoffman, partner at DLA Piper. “He’s a creative thinker and a dynamic leader who collaborates with my team, forming a brilliant partnership that achieves successful results for Allianz.”
Fawcett advocates building relationships early and often in your career, holding yourself accountable to a moral code, and never losing sight of how far you’ve come. “You have to be grateful every day for where you are and how you got here—and the people who got you here,” he says. “If you get involved with people, with things, and with your teams, everything else takes care of itself.”
“Will is the ideal client to work with. He hires counsel with the requisite skills and has a specific objective in mind. He clearly articulates exactly what the mission is and partners closely with his counsel to develop the strategy and reach the goal in an effective and efficient manner.”
—Joseph T. McCullough IV., Leader of Freeborn’s Insurance/Reinsurance Industry Practice Group
“William has unparalleled experience in the insurance industry and a keen business sense. In the time we have worked together, I have seen his leadership and innovative thinking strengthen the legal department and existing relationships.”
—Jodi Swick, Partner