Before Mark Fogarty went to law school, he worked in accounting and finance at Kimberly-Clark Corp., Neenah. Although he spent a few years in private practice after graduation from Georgetown Law, Fogarty soon found his way back into the business world, working as in-house counsel at Menasha Corp. from 1994-97, then senior and international counsel at Kimberly-Clark.
Back with Menasha Corp. since 2006, Fogarty helps oversee several aspects of the business through his roles as vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary.
Wisconsin Law Journal: What projects are you working on right now?
Mark Fogarty: We’re always on the lookout for good acquisition opportunities. So right now, a big focus is, we’ve just closed on acquisition of The Strive Group and are working on integration of the two businesses. That’ll be a focus for the balance of the year.
WLJ: How is life as in-house counsel different from that of a private practioner?
Fogarty: Each have different ways of approaching things. I like being tied in more closely to the business as in-house. … In private practice, the clients tend to come to you with a specific problem, but in-house you’re there on ground floor of a lot of initiatives and strategic decision making.
The good thing about private practice is you get a wide variety of issues and clients to deal with. So you learn a lot about different industries. But in private practice, I never cared for the hourly billing methods.
WLJ: Is it tricky finding that balance between business and legal advice?
Fogarty: I haven’t found it to be tricky. You have to pay attention to what hat you’re wearing. Before I went back to law school, I worked in finance and accounting at Kimberly-Clark. It was a natural fit for me.
I also focused on business law in law school. I’ve always found that part of my role to be very interesting.
The business background helps to temper your legal advice, as you have a better appreciation for client’s business goals. … When you’re in a legal role, you’re exposed to so much across the business. That experience is valuable in providing advice.
WLJ: What piece of advice would you give to a lawyer considering going in-house?
Fogarty: The one thing about in-house, it is a bit of a mind shift. In private practice, the focus is on almost being the expert in a particular area. There’s much more of a focus of getting everything perfect and doing everything to the last degree. In-house, you’re more trying to do the best you can under the circumstances, but you have limited resources. You tend to make more judgment calls as to whether you really need to go to the nth degree to deal with it.
Every lawyer, whether in-house or private practice, has to appreciate the economics of an issue and realize whether it makes sense to pay that much more, but in-house are focused even more highly on that because you’re dealing with a day-to-day business.