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Interview with Rocio Arredondo and Arusiak Mardirousian

Rocío Arredondo
Formerly General Counsel for Mexico and Central America, HP Inc. based in Mexico City
 Rocío Arredondo: I began working for HP in 1996, hired by the Finance Director of HP Mexico. At the time, HP did not have a legal team and I was interviewed by our external counsel. I started at HP when we only sold basic products, rather than services, so the work was quite easy to handle. The type of work has evolved over the years, and I have had to evolve with the company. I am now responsible for the Central American, Caribbean and Mexican legal teams.

We used to be micro-managed and felt completely powerless, but then the strategy changed. The legal department became stronger and more independent. We hired more people across the region and began to meet each other face-to-face. That’s when we started to feel like a part of the Latin American team.

Our legal team is streamlined but it was not independent of the Finance department when we started working here. Following the merger with Compaq, the leadership of the team changed, and we began to travel and have team meetings. That’s when the synergies across the South and Central American teams began to emerge. Before that we were completely isolated. Currently, we report to the VP of Legal, who reports to our global GC, who reports directly to the CEO. The organisation is arranged in regions and there are lawyers across South and Central America that report to us.

We have weekly calls that all teams take part in and we try to draw topics together to leverage experience or knowledge across the teams. This means that the other countries can learn from each other. Our main job is to help the business grow, but we are also responsible for everything else connected with legal matters.

Every member of our team has good relations with other teams at HP. We sit at the table with the leadership team and all-important decisions go through us. You must create a strong relationship with the business so that they know that we are available at all times and engaged with their projects. They need to know that we care about them and the business. When we joined HP, we were perceived as ‘stoppers’ but we worked hard to change that and built a culture where it is clear that the company’s lawyers exist to help the business grow. As soon as that was understood, and our colleagues at HP saw that in action, we became their trusted advisors.

We are trusted advisors for the business group and that is something that we have built throughout the years.

To build the trust that other teams place in us, we became advocates of revenue recognition and that became part of the DNA of the company. This helped to create a connection between the legal department, sales teams and business teams. That created an understanding from our internal clients that we are their partners. They know we have their backs.

Over the next ten years, the way that we deal with other teams will have to evolve and be more technology driven. This is a journey that we have already embarked upon and the results of that will change the way we act for HP around the globe.

What will determine the future is how our company changes and how our legal team progresses. We are now much more of a services company and are dealing with completely different documentation on a day-to-day basis. The evolution of the HP legal team is led by the evolution of the company, and we must continue to evolve with it.

We want to be perceived as more than lawyers by our colleagues. We are people who can complement the business. Our General Managers come to our offices to discuss their concerns or challenges, not necessarily within the legal department’s remit, but related to company strategy.

We are very open with our team so that they know that whatever problem they are facing, we are here to help. Our teams know that we don’t just care about them in the work arena, but we care about them as people.

As GCs we are so involved in anything that goes on in the business that we are an integral part of the company. It is time to capitalise on those relationships that we have created with the rest of the company.

There are huge opportunities to grow in an in-house role, but it is important to have experience in other areas of law at different organisations. Young lawyers often approach us for advice, and it is our obligation to try and mentor them and help them achieve their aspirations. It is rewarding to see our teams grow, and to watch individuals become better lawyers. Some of our lawyers are located in smaller offices in more isolated teams so we work hard to make sure that everyone knows we are here for them, that we are here to mentor them and to help them be the best version of themselves at work.

HP is so large and complex that it is possible to get lost. It is knowing the company so well, knowing the areas, and the different roles within the business, that gives us the opportunity to guide our team.

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