INTERVIEW: Jennifer Picenoni
general counsel, Lindt & Sprüngli
The general counsel of Swiss chocolatiers Lindt, Jennifer Picenoni, chats to GC about working across
multiple jurisdictions for a fast-growing company.
G C I N T E R V I E W
THE LEGAL 500
GC: Why did you decide to become a lawyer?
Jennifer Picenoni (JP): With other lawyers in my family, I knew at an early stage that I wanted to become a lawyer.
GC: How did you end up in the food and confectionary sector?
JP: After several years in private practice, I decided to spend a year in Sydney to complete a postgraduate education in international commercial law. During this period I was given the opportunity to work on a project for a well-known global food manufacturer. It was this experience which led me to become an in-house lawyer in the food and confectionary sector. I joined Lindt & Sprüngli eight years ago and I am still passionate about the chocolate business!
GC: What have been the high points of working for Lindt & Sprüngli?
JP: It’s global. From a legal perspective, operating in multiple jurisdictions is great but also challenging at the same time, given the growing pace of legislation and the complexities and the risks which it presents for the business. The evolving nature of the in-house counsel role, which now focuses on work that is a lot more diverse than just legal, is providing me with an opportunity to broaden my skills in other areas. I’ve expanded my knowledge of the chocolate business itself, but also just about running a legal department. Coming into Lindt & Sprüngli I didn’t know anything about the business, and I’ve had to learn fast.
GC: What has been the highlight of your career so far?
JP: I would say having had the opportunity to build up an efficient, quality- and business-oriented legal department which is well-recognised within the business. The acquisition of the US company Russell Stover Candies for roughly $1.5 billion was surely the most recent career highlight.
GC: What sorts of challenges are you facing, working for a company like Lindt & Sprüngli?
JP: Being part of a small team within a fast-expanding company, we are constantly faced with new kinds of work in multiple jurisdictions. We need to deal with ambiguity and time pressure, adapt quickly and stay in tune with our business client’s needs.
GC: What do you expect from an ideal external lawyer?
JP: Often law firms deliver way too much relative to what one is asking, including huge memoranda and massive investigations. We want advisers who are business oriented and come with solutions to problems.
GC: What’s a typical day in the life for you?
JP: After years of experience you face challenges with a much more hands-on and efficient approach. My day involves anything that entails helping the business to grow and constantly mitigating potential risks. Legal’s primary role is to enable the company to fully pursue its strategic plan in ways that mitigate risk. We are at our best when we are supporting our business partners in executing both their short and long-term goals.
GC: How big is your legal team?
JP: Globally, we are six lawyers. For specialised matters we work in partnership with a network of highly-qualified external counsel in the different jurisdictions where we operate. Outside counsel are critical assets of every in-house legal team.
GC: How would you describe your management style?
JP: In my opinion, in general, a good manager gives clear directions and actually stays pretty hands off, but is ready and available to jump in to offer guidance, expertise, and help when needed. A good manager should also give the team a platform for exposure and to be heard and become visible as well. I try my best to make that my management style.
A good legal manager needs to develop and maintain a highly-motivated, dynamic, well-trained and committed workforce. They should create dialogue and build long-term trust with their business clients, and proactively provide to the business cost-effective, commercially-oriented and strategic advice.
GC: If you could go back in time and give your junior self some careers advice, what would you say?
JP: Probably to consider having a different post-graduate study, such as economics. At an early stage, I would receive a perspective on a completely different environment, and get the benefit from that. As mentioned, an in-house counsel needs to understand the business language.
GC: If for some reason you weren’t going to be a lawyer anymore, what would you do instead?
JP: I would be a legal consultant. I would definitely be advising in-house lawyers, managers and board members.
GC: What do you do in your spare time?
JP: I spend lots of time with my family. I do a fair amount of reading and go to the gym.