Premium Subscriber Content: Q&A with Keurig Dr Pepper Chief Legal Officer Anthony Shoemaker on his biggest successes and challenges from the past year and advice for young attorneys seeking his business.
To read Mark Curriden’s profile of the Keurig Dr Pepper team, click here.
Texas Lawbook: During college, you worked as a CBS Sports production assistant. What did that involve?
Anthony Shoemaker: I was fortunate to have a close family connection to one of the all-time great people in sports television, Lance Barrow. By the time I was in high school/college, Lance was coordinating producer of CBS’s coverage of NFL football and PGA Tour golf. He invited me to come out and work with the golf crew, traveling from tournament to tournament around the country during the summers. I started doing work on the course following one of the groups and feeding-in information to the production trucks about what was going on — who was hitting next, yardages, what club they were using, etc. Over time, I graduated to other production jobs — assisting the broadcast team with stats and research, producing highlight reels and vignettes and helping to direct the live broadcasts. It was both a lot of fun (I loved being around golf and meeting all kinds of famous broadcasters and athletes), but also incredibly formative for me to travel to all kinds of places I had never seen and work on a crew with all kinds of diverse and interesting personalities.
Lawbook: Did you take the job at Keurig Dr Pepper knowing that Jim was retiring and you were taking his position?
Shoemaker: No, Jim was not specific about any retirement plan or timetable or plan at the time I was hired. But certainly, I knew that it was a great opportunity to step into a senior leadership role in the legal department of a major public company. I figured good things would happen if I leaned-in and proved myself with whatever was thrown at me.
Lawbook: What have been your biggest challenges during the past year and a half as GC?
Shoemaker: Like many companies, we have experienced a high level of turnover in the past couple of years. A lot of it was just normal course retirements or transitions, but certainly we saw a lot of historical knowledge leave the legal department in a relatively short period of time. This is true for KDP across the executive ranks as well, so I have a number of new peers on the senior leadership team. It’s always a challenge to bring in a lot of new people at the same time, but we had to quickly get good at interviewing, hiring and onboarding. Doing that kind of renewal and rebuilding work while continuing to serve our business clients at the highest level was challenging but has also allowed us to rethink a lot of what we do and present a “new face” to the company of what their legal team can be.
Lawbook: What have been your biggest successes during 2022?
Shoemaker: I’m most proud of how our legal team has come together even as we have dealt with a lot of change. We hired and onboarded 11 new people to the legal department in 2022, which is more than one-fourth of the entire department. In the process, we defined our values and began creating a renewed culture. We have some of the best in-house attorneys and paralegals I have ever observed, and we have built up our collective horsepower both here in Dallas/Frisco and in our other headquarters outside of Boston. We also played a huge role in several high-profile matters for the company in 2022, starting the year with BodyArmor and then finishing with our $863 million investment in Nutrabolt, an active health and wellness company based in Austin.
Lawbook: What do you look for when considering outside counsel for transactions such as the M&A transactions or in litigation matters? Also, do you have preferred outside counsel list that you and your team use?
Shoemaker: We don’t have a formal list, but we do have very strong relationships with a handful of key firms that know our business very well. More broadly, what we’re looking for are attorneys/firms that will act as a team alongside our in-house folks. “Team First” is one of core KDP Values, and we talk a lot about how we “win for each other.” We want to hire firms that are open to a truly collaborative team first mentality and will join us in that journey.
Lawbook: What is the role of the corporate GC in pushing law firms to become more diverse in their lawyer hiring, retention and promotion? Every year, The Lawbook does diversity surveys and the results can be depressing. Is there a solution out there?
Shoemaker: I wish I had the solution. I think it has to start even earlier than hiring at law firms — we have to promote the legal field as a profession that’s open and available to all. Law firms have invested a lot in diversity initiatives, and over time I do believe they will make a greater impact, but we do not have enough diverse talent entering the profession. Both firms and companies like ours also have to be more flexible with career path options and be willing to allow for differently defined roles that meet the needs of today’s attorneys.
Lawbook: Finally, what advice do you give to a young private practice lawyer out there who would like to get your attention or do work for you? How can they best show you their expertise and get your attention?
Shoemaker: The best way to get my attention is to get the attention of one of my lawyers. I have very high opinions of the people that work for me, and they know they’re going to be accountable for what they bring to the table. So, if one of them comes to me and says we should take a look at someone for a specific matter, I’m going to listen. But the thoughts above are really what it comes down to — are you willing to invest in getting to know our business and can you act as an extension of our internal team?