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The Black General Counsel Project: Baker Hughes’ Regina Bynote Jones

Dec. 15, 2020, 11:01 AM

Regina Bynote Jones, the chief legal officer of energy technology company Baker Hughes Co., believes diversity is valuable in order to bring new perspectives to a company, but more than that, it’s also a responsibility.

“We owe it to our employees, stakeholders, customers and communities to engage with others who challenge our perspectives and approach in any given situation from an inclusive and informed point of view,” Jones said in a recent Bloomberg Law survey.

Black general counsel now make up over 5% of all general counsel in the Fortune 1000, a significant milestone tracked by the Black General Counsel 2025 Initiative and first reported by Bloomberg Law. We reached out to over 50 Black legal chiefs whose companies were in the Fortune 1000 in 2019 or 2020 to learn more about their careers and diversity at the top of the legal industry and heard from 39 of them.

Jones joined Houston-based Baker Hughes in April of this year. Before that, she was the general counsel of Delek U.S. Holdings, Inc., and she previously spent over a decade with oil and energy company Schlumberger Limited.

These responses have been edited for clarity and length.

Bloomberg Law: What are some key matters you and your team are working on right now?

Regina Jones: As an experienced people leader, I know the collective actions of a few, when directed with purpose, can enable change on a global scale. And while change can often be a disruptive force, it also can be a forcing mechanism for people to align around shared values and core principles. It’s less about enforcing compliance and more about equipping accountability. For us, that’s to make energy safer, cleaner, and more efficient for people and the planet. My role is to ensure we do that responsibly and with integrity.

BL: What’s the best leadership advice you’ve gotten, from mentors or others?

RJ: One piece of leadership advice that comes to mind is from a former CEO who emphasized the importance of listening—every person and interaction you have can teach you something if you’re paying attention and care. That, and to be authentic. The most valuable thing you can bring to the table is your true self. That’s a big part of the Baker Hughes culture, and a big reason why I chose to join this company.

BL: What advice would you give to lawyers who want to go in-house?

RJ: When you go in-house, it’s very important to be intentional about where you go. You have to target companies whose business strategy and values you believe in. I knew Baker Hughes was right for me because I truly believe in what we’re doing. I believe in the importance of the energy transition and who we are as a company. You want to be able to go to work and feel good about what you do.

BL: What do you wish you knew at the beginning of your career that you know now?

RJ: As a lawyer, you always feel like you need to talk. But when you shut up and really listen, that’s when you learn the most. You also need to be willing to make yourself uncomfortable. Meet and engage with people who aren’t like you. That’s how you build relationships and change perceptions. Not everyone is going to be a good person, but you have to get the job done anyway. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable.

BL: Why do you think the number of Black general counsel has been on the rise? Have you observed any changes in the past few years that have contributed to recent increases in representation?

RJ: I think companies recognize that diversity is a differentiator, but also, I think it’s the product of a bigger, better pipeline. There are simply more options to choose from now. You have more Black people going to law school with more exposure and better visibility. And you have people who are succeeding in very senior roles that set an example for others to follow. Leaders are starting to see the value in having a different perspective. As a Black general counsel, when you bring your authentic self to the table, you’re giving that perspective and adding that value. I believe this is a trend that will continue as long as quality candidates are coming out of the pipeline.

BL: When you’re looking to hire outside counsel, how does diversity come into play in your evaluation of law firms?

RJ: At Baker Hughes, we fundamentally believe that diverse points of view are a competitive advantage—they spark innovation and creativity, help us find new solutions to tough problems, and even help us consider factors that may otherwise be overlooked or unresolved. Bringing in diverse perspectives is as critical when partnering with outside parties as it is when hiring employees. And, likewise, we owe it to our employees, stakeholders, customers, and communities to engage with others who challenge our perspectives and approach in any given situation from an inclusive and informed point of view. This includes outside law firms. So, we do look to see, how is this partner showing up? Are they bringing us diverse points of view? Are they inclusive? Do they share similar values and beliefs?

BL: What opportunities or changes has the pandemic brought to your job and your team?

RJ: I joined Baker Hughes in the midst of the pandemic, so it’s easy to say we’ve been in a state of constant change from day one. But we’ve grown and learned that we can adapt even if everything changes overnight. We’re more reflective about what lies ahead and how things will work in a changed world and more focused on caring for each other—on the total well-being of our employees and their families.

Questions by Ruiqi Chen and Lisa Helem.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ruiqi Chen in Washington, D.C. at rchen@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com;
Lisa Helem at lhelem@bloombergindustry.com

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