In this in-depth interview we chat to Ben Goodman about his role at Spectrum Brands, why he chose a career in-house, who has been his biggest inspiration and more
Ben, can you please quickly summarise your education and career path to date?
After finishing at Altrincham Grammar School for Boys, I took a fairly traditional route, studying Law at Liverpool University, attending Chester College of Law and then joining DWF as a trainee in the Manchester office. On qualification, I worked in the IP team at DWF in its Liverpool office, working with clients such as Princes. As I worked closely with clients I got a flavour for industry and decided that I’d like to explore opportunities as an in-house lawyer.
I took an in-house role at Kellogg Company in
Manchester back in 2001 as the UK and Ireland Legal Advisor and then spent 15 years
at Kellogg with roles including the UK and Ireland Legal Counsel; then I moved into
a European role as European Counsel Brands. In this role, I led a team
covering all legal issues across EMEA related to brands, such as IP, marketing,
regulatory and also M&A and integration workstreams.
Then three years ago I joined Spectrum Brands, based in Failsworth, Manchester,
as Group Legal Counsel for the UK and Ireland and also Company Secretary.
Spectrum Brands is a global, diversified, market-driven consumer products
company, with many household brands, such as Remington®, Russell Hobbs®, George
Foreman®, IAMS®, Eukanuba® and Tetra®. After just over a year in the role I
was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to lead the EMEA Legal team
What kind of work do you undertake at Spectrum Brands?
Spectrum Brands has recently gone through a
divestiture, where we sold our Battery business (Varta® consumer batteries and
Rayovac® hearing aid batteries) and also our Global Auto Care business (Armor
All® and STP®). Therefore, this has been a big part of my work over the
last 12 months or so. It’s been a fascinating learning experience, as
previously I’d always be on the acquiring side. The divestiture has set up Spectrum Brands to concentrate all our efforts in a
much more targeted way, giving clear direction and strategy. Together
with my team, we are responsible for all legal matters, ranging from marketing,
IP, commercial contracts, data privacy; to employment, property and
regulatory. We are here to help enable the business, so it keeps the
workload varied and exciting. I’m also on the Leadership team, so have a
seat at the table where we shape strategy and show the real value that legal
brings to business. Long gone are the outdated views of legal as a roadblock or the ‘fun police’, we are an integral part of the business; challenging,
protecting and driving the business forward – commercially focussed in all we
What’s the most enjoyable thing about your current role?
There’s no single most enjoyable thing; it’s a
combination, such as variety and every day is different; it keeps it fresh
and exciting. As a team, we are all learning, developing and growing every
day as new challenges and opportunities arise. The people and the brands;
we have some amazing global brands and a fantastic team, which makes coming to
work fun! Also, being an integral part of the business, helping to shape
strategy and ‘getting my hands dirty’ - with both legal and none legal tasks –
really being that enabler. We don’t have clients in the Legal team here –
we are not separate from the business, we are part of the business.
What first attracted you to law?
My initial attraction to Law was through my
uncle. He was a Circuit Judge for many years and I got the opportunity to
spend time shadowing him in Court. However, my original intention had
been to join the Navy, but I decided I would go and study Law at University and
then see if I was still minded to join the Navy. Law won, but I still
love messing about on the water!
You started your career in private practice so what made you switch in-house?
I switched quite early, only one-year post
qualification. I was driven to move in-house by my desire to be
commercially focused in what I do and the interest I had in clients’ businesses
in general. By working closely with clients when I was in private
practice, I got a real taste for what life could be like as an in-house lawyer.
What was the biggest surprise?
My biggest surprise on day one was the variety of
work. Perhaps this shouldn’t have been a big surprise, but it was a big
change from specialising in a subject area, to being asked to advise on areas
outside of my initial comfort zone. Another big difference was the speed
required and the need to give straight forward commercial advice: Yes or No –
explanations can come later!
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of working in-house?
To go for it! If you are in the early days of
your legal career, perhaps look to more commercial areas, as they have most
applicability on a day to day basis. That having been said it’s all about
the person, so if you are keen to learn, are a good communicator and don’t fear
moving out of your comfort zone then give it a try! Secondments are a
good way to test the water and can also help in the recruitment process as you
already have some industry experience.
What four words best sum you up as a lawyer?
Solutions. Commercial. Pragmatic. Personable.
Do you have a motto that you live by in business?
Explore the Grey! As a team, as a business,
we will always be compliant; however, we all know that the Law is not black and
white. We will explore the grey, look for solutions, balance risks, drive
the business forward – but we will never knowingly break the Law!
Finally, who has been your biggest career inspiration and why?
I’ve worked with some great people and leaders over the years. In particular, Orla Muldoon is someone that has really influenced me and I take much of my leadership style from her. Orla was Regional General Counsel at Kellogg Company before moving on to Archer Daniels Midland as Chief Counsel over in the US. She is a great leader, empowering her team, pushing her team (out of their comfort zone) and driving a real culture of trust. Outside of legal, I’ve had the pleasure to work with many great business leaders and be part of many great leadership teams where I have taken inspiration.