With operations in six states, in an industry heavy on legal documents, Ken Baumgart had a lot on his plate as former compliance manager for Menasha-based Faith Technologies Inc.
“One of the biggest challenges is to take what’s in those contracts and determine what they mean on a practical level to the people working in the field,” he said. “I’ve actually started contract training courses for our managers so they know what they need to do to fulfill the contracts.
“Those aren’t just words; they have actions behind them that need to be fulfilled.”
So far, he said, he’s gotten good feedback from the sessions, which can run as long as five hours.
“We use actual contract language so they can see how it impacts our projects,” said Baumgart, who joined Faith three years ago after 12 years in private practice and was recently promoted to director of risk management.
His role in compliance required him to identify issues that affect multiple projects to make sure there were consistent policies companies wide.
“We’re doing more and more of looking at an issue and then seeing how it plays out in various projects, to make sure everyone is on the same page,” Baumgart said. “You can’t have it being done one way on one project and a second way on another.”
Everything he did as compliance manager, Baumgart said, ensured that construction projects get done, which requires maintaining relationships and coming up “with solutions to problems as they come up.”
Wisconsin Law Journal: What are you working on now?
Ken Baumgart: I work on a variety of projects, from the bidding process through the final awarding of the contract. Once projects start, I’ll also get involved if there’s any issue with subcontractors that may need to be addressed. I also spend a lot of time on insurance reviews. There’s a lot of reading and research involved in this job.
WLJ: What is your most important role as in-house counsel?
Baumgart: Keeping the lines of communication open and making sure projects are moving forward
WLJ: How many people are in your legal department?
Baumgart: Six, including myself, but we don’t like to call it the legal department. When problems come up, we want to engage the parties involved and come up with options and engage everyone in dialogue. The last thing I want is when someone gets an email from me or a letter and immediately think ‘Oh no, we got a letter from an attorney. We need to lawyer up.’ I’m not in an adversary role.
WLJ: What do you look for in outside counsel?
Baumgart: Since we are a national company, we do involve outside counsel if there’s out-of-state litigation or if we’re involved with a federal project. In those cases, we look for someone with onsite experience who’s there on the ground.