After two years in private practice, Mark Willson made the switch to in-house counsel and never looked back.
“I really enjoy being part of a company,” said Willson, who is general counsel and corporate secretary at Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co., Neenah, “and understanding the fabric of the business, rather than a legal professional who is called upon when needed and may not have a close connection with the business.”
Willson joined Jewelers Mutual in 2010, after working as corporate counsel for the CUNA Mutual Group in Madison and then as associate general counsel at Appleton-based U.S. Venture Inc.
“Outside counsel is a critical resource and I value their expertise,” he said. “But for me, personally, I find it especially rewarding to use my thorough understanding of the business to provide practical legal and business counsel.”
Willson said company leaders at Jewelers Mutual empower employees so they feel like a critical part of the company’s success, an atmosphere he appreciates.
“People understand their importance to the company’s success,” he said, “and collaborate well across the organization.”
Wisconsin Law Journal: What are your duties at Jewelers Mutual?
Mark Willson: As general counsel and corporate secretary, I serve on the executive leadership team and help shape the company’s operational focus and direction. I’m also responsible for overseeing regulatory compliance, contract drafting and review, and the general legal needs of the business units. I also oversee the company’s claims department and serve in a support capacity to the board of directors and its committees.
WLJ: What are you working on now?
Willson: Jewelers Mutual is launching paperless delivery to its personal jewelry policyholders, and I’ve been very involved leading that project. It involved vetting associated legal issues. The issues were numerous, but my legal team and I enjoyed helping shape a solution that not only streamlines our operations but also provides even greater customer convenience.
WLJ: How many people are in your legal department?
Willson: We have five employees in the legal department with different roles and responsibilities. They handle agent licensing and product filings in all 50 states and Canada, manage legal resources, and serve on a wide variety of cross-functional project teams.
WLJ: What qualities or traits do you look for in outside counsel?
Willson: My focus in choosing outside counsel is finding someone with the relevant expertise and experience as well as excellent practical skills to apply that knowledge. I value working with people who can quickly translate their expertise into practical insight we can use to make the best possible decision for the company. This becomes even more important if there is limited information or tight deadlines to meet. The main way we use outside counsel is for claims-related litigation, and we have a network of great attorneys we work with across the country in that capacity. We also use outside counsel for unique situations related to employment, bankruptcy, anti-trust and other nonrecurring matters.