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The Black General Counsel Project: Home Depot’s Teresa Wynn Roseborough

Dec. 15, 2020, 11:01 AM

Teresa Wynn Roseborough, the general counsel of home improvement retailer The Home Depot, Inc., said aspiring in-house lawyers should seek a “well-rounded grounding” of career experience, which could include time spent outside the public sector.

“I was lucky to start my career working for the government, which gave me experience in thinking about the law from a point of neutrality: ‘What should the law do in this situation? What does this law mean in this circumstance?’” Roseborough 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.

Roseborough joined Atlanta-based Home Depot in 2011 as executive vice president and general counsel. Prior to that, she worked for insurance company MetLife, Inc., most recently as deputy general counsel. Roseborough was also a deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department during the Clinton Administration.

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?

Teresa Wynn Roseborough: Our teams are always focused on a broad variety of legal matters that impact our business, whether that’s securities, employment matters, real estate, store operations, risk management, or intellectual property—to name a few. Covid-19 has presented a number of important issues to navigate on a state-by-state basis on behalf of our associates, customers, and our business.

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

TR: I’ve been lucky to have mentors who have given me great advice throughout my career. One that I always keep in mind is that you can’t lead others effectively if you don’t show genuine care for who they are, where they are in their career journey, and where they want to be. You have to really know the people you work with and commit to being part of the process of helping them grow.

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

TR: First, I would say that in-house is a great place to progress your career, but it isn’t always the best place to start. Make sure you have a well-rounded grounding in private practice, in government service, in public service. Build five or more years of experience in one of those environments, because that will give you a better opportunity to know how you want to contribute and what your aspirations are.

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

TR: I didn’t fully realize just how valuable it would be to get a well-rounded view of law. I was lucky to start my career working for the government, which gave me experience in thinking about the law from a point of neutrality: “What should the law do in this situation? What does this law mean in this circumstance?” My career in private practice taught me to think like a businessperson and a lawyer. Both of these groundings are critical in my job as general counsel at The Home Depot.

I’ve also learned the importance of doing public service throughout your career. Lawyers are critical to making sure everybody has access to the justice system to make their lives better and their communities stronger. My belief in the law as a tool for driving improvement has been an underlying force in my career.

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?

TR: Clearly, more companies are seeing the value of diversifying the C-suite, including the general counsel role. This has led to an increase in opportunities for people of color.

I also think more lawyers are interested in in-house positions, because they see the value of not only driving the legal aspects of the company, but also being a part of the business decisions. As more lawyers are drawn to in-house positions, then naturally you have a more diverse pool of talent.

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

TR: The retail landscape has rapidly evolved, and the pace of change is only expected to accelerate in the future. We look for outside counsel with the breadth and depth of experience needed to help us navigate this extremely complex and constantly evolving competitive, legal, and regulatory landscape. Whether we’re building our own in-house team or evaluating law firms, we believe diversity makes our business stronger and more innovative. In addition to focusing on the skills and knowledge necessary to meet the needs of the company, we consider the ability of the firm to leverage and provide a broad set of experiences—that is only strengthened by ethnic, gender, generational, and racial diversity.

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

TR: Nobody could have predicted what has unfolded as a result of the pandemic. Our focus at The Home Depot has been and continues to be on two key priorities: the safety and well-being of our associates and customers; and providing our customers and communities with the products they need at this time. The team’s alignment around these two objectives has enabled critical speed and flexibility when making decisions and implementing a number of changes across the business in an incredibly fluid environment. I’ve never been prouder of the resilience and strength that our associates have demonstrated as we navigate these circumstances.

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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