When it comes to his job as an in-house attorney at Trek Bicycle Corp., Jonathon Fritz uses skills cyclists regularly employ: balance and being prepared for the unexpected.
The Waterloo-based bike manufacturer has a small in-house legal department, where Fritz handles a variety of duties, generally focused on product liability.
But in addition to those duties, Fritz said he never knows what he’ll find when he comes into the office.
“You always need to be prepared,” he said, “because you have no idea what to expect.”
Unlike many in-house counsels, Fritz, who previously worked at Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren SC, gets out of the office quite a bit.
“I enjoy getting out and attending trials and mediations or going to bike inspections,” he said. “It all helps me better understand the cases.”
For Fritz, the big difference between in-house work and working at a law firm is the knowledge base.
“When you’re in-house, you know a little about a lot of subjects and when you’re at a law firm, you often know a lot about a narrow subject,” he said. “When you work at a company, you’re more invested in the business and you learn a lot about what makes it tick.”
At Trek, that, of course, means learning more about cycling. Fritz said the company has a wellness program that encourages employees to get out and exercise, making it fun.
“It’s really an enjoyable environment to work in,” he said.
Wisconsin Law Journal: Tell me about your role.
Jonathon Fritz: I primarily focus on product liability, but also handle anything corporate related. I work with a number of departments and there’s a fantastic breadth of projects that I take on.
WLJ: What do you consider to be your most important role as in-house counsel?
Fritz: Providing service to the company and helping different departments do what they need to do. I don’t want to be a roadblock.
WLJ: What are you working on now?
Fritz: There’s a lot that covers a bunch of different areas. The biggest challenge of being in-house counsel is the variety of issues you’re responsible for handling and it’s difficult to understand everything in depth. You need to know your limits and develop good relationships with outside counsel.
WLJ: How many people are in your legal department?
Fritz: There are three attorneys with different focuses, including one who specializes in IP issues. But we all work together and you have to be ready to pitch in whenever necessary.
WLJ: What do you look for in outside counsel?
Fritz: For cases, we look for local attorneys in the right jurisdiction. You want someone who’s connected with and respected in the community.