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We recently spoke to Timothea Letson, Deputy General Counsel at Compass, Inc., about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on how her department operates.
PLJ: How typical or unique is the scope of responsibilities for the company’s litigation attorneys?
Letson: As a real estate brokerage, there is always a docket of professional liability and errors and omissions cases, which can run the gamut from a rather mundane water damage issue to, what is still my favorite claim, a Maserati not fitting into its owner’s assigned parking spot. We also have a healthy docket of intellectual property, contract, employment, and other disputes as well.
PLJ: What is keeping your company’s litigation attorneys the busiest at the moment?
Letson: Having recently gone public, our competitors are keeping our litigators pretty engaged. The litigation team works closely with our M&A and Expansion and Adjacent Services teams to help navigate risk and drive business goals.
PLJ: How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the way your department operates, and what changes may continue to be employed beyond the pandemic?
Letson: The biggest change while we all worked remotely was the lack of impromptu requests for advice. Even as we now move into a hybrid work model, we are forced to accept that impromptu requests are not really scalable because the legal team and the company have grown so much during the last year. We have had to formalize a lot of check-ins and cross-functional meetings while working remotely, and this change is on some level here to stay.
Timothea Letson, Deputy General Counsel at Compass, Inc.
Now, the task is to make sure the team culture continues to thrive once we have some folks back in the office close to full-time and others working from home almost exclusively.
PLJ: What are some approaches that Compass has taken to prioritize diversity?
Letson: Compass has doubled down on its commitment to diversity by, for example, requiring all external advisors (including law firms) to ensure that Black professionals are part of the teams directly advising the company. This builds on a requirement in the Legal Department’s Outside Counsel Billing Guidelines that one-third of a law firm’s team be comprised of gender, racial, ethnic, or other minorities and that these team members serve in leadership roles commensurate with tenure.
Compass also participates in the Seizing Every Opportunity (SEO) career development program for underrepresented college students and welcomed our first class of SEO interns this summer.
PLJ: What types of issues will cause you to turn to outside counsel?
Letson: While we are a nimble team, we are still building our expertise in antitrust, data privacy, and other regulatory matters. Additionally, the nuances of state-specific restrictive covenants and other employment questions often send us to outside counsel.
PLJ: What is the best career advice you ever received?
Letson: Keep your eye on the ball and have fun. It is not specifically career advice, but my dad would say this to me every morning as he dropped me off at school during tennis season and it comes back to me often.
PLJ: If not an attorney, what would you wish to be?
Letson: I am rediscovering my childhood dream to be a marine biologist.
PLJ: What advice would you give to prospective in-house litigation counsel?
Letson: Start trying your hand at giving business-minded advice and understanding how a particular strategy will impact your client’s business.
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