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2019 Top 10 30-Something: Lewis Dolezal

Top Ten 30 Somethings

Scotts Miracle-Gro probably isn’t the first company that comes to mind when envisioning cutting-edge technology. The lawn and garden giant is going through a transformational period and putting innovation at the core of its operations. Lewis Dolezal’s current position in the legal department was created with the idea of harmonizing legal support for the technological transformation that is touching all aspects of the company, from product development to digital marketing applications to risk mitigation.

Putting Dolezal, trained as a multi-disciplined corporate and commercial lawyer, at the tip of the legal innovation spear was a strategic decision. His job is to encourage innovation throughout the enterprise by thinking of innovation as an end-to-end process instead of a point-in-time exercise. Dolezal supports market-leading products, including Scotts’ portfolio of consumer apps and tech products.

These smart growing products help a new generation of consumers manage their lawn and garden. With a smart irrigation system, consumers can monitor local weather patterns and adjust their watering schedule based on the amount of moisture in the soil or expected rainfall, and home gardeners can check on their plants via their phone when they are across the country.

Like many consumer brand companies, the way Scotts Miracle-Gro sells its products is also changing. While its products are primarily sold at big box retailers, local garden centers, and hardware stores, the company is increasingly selling products directly to the consumer, bringing new legal risks and challenges to the 150-year-old manufacturer as it transacts and holds consumer data. Aiming to transform these risks into strategies, Dolezal, with a background in data security and privacy, is helping the company shape cyber and privacy regulations.

When Ohio, where Scotts Miracle-Gro is headquartered, introduced legislation that would incentivize companies that adopt certain cybersecurity frameworks to curb data theft, Dolezal advocated that the bill could do much more for tech-centric consumer product companies and lean into the future of data.

He testified before the Ohio legislature on behalf of the company and industry to expand the scope of the bill, which previously focused on financial data, and re-tool its application to modern data collection practices and litigation risk, pointing out that companies collect a broad spectrum of data elements valuable to consumers and potential hackers.

“With strictly financial information, you could change your account in less than an hour,” he explains; however, “if there’s a breach of a consumer’s demographic-behavioral profile and identifying information, it’s a lot harder for consumers to change their patterns and life circumstances.”

Ohio’s legislation is unique because it provides a carrot instead of a stick with regard to cybersecurity investment. Under the legislation, if companies implement a cybersecurity program conforming to certain cybersecurity frameworks, and they do suffer a breach, the company may be entitled to an affirmative defense against certain claims arising from the breach. This win-win approach provides predictability for companies and incentivizes comprehensive cybersecurity based on standardized information security frameworks.

Dolezal’s commitment to innovation and technology isn’t limited to his work at Scotts Miracle-Gro. Meaningful leadership includes collaborating with the broader legal and business community. As such, Dolezal has organized several events with other local in-house counsel and technologists to share information and ideas about technology and in-house practice.

As chair of the ACC Central Ohio Chapter’s Technology Committee, he has also introduced “Tech Tips” articles that offer quick advice on day-to-day legal challenges and more advanced deep dive “Practice Pointers” workshops for practitioners. “This programing is meant to be a quick synopsis to make the in-house practitioner a little smarter very quickly,” he says.

Dolezal also volunteers time working with and mentoring law students on aspects of technology and corporate practice and has been featured on various panels focusing on cybersecurity, data privacy, AI, and legal innovation.

If there was any doubt that technology and disruptive innovation is not rapidly changing the role of corporate counsel, Dolezal is here to dissuade you of that notion. To some degree or another, every company is becoming a technology company. With the need to adapt, more and more companies will be looking to similarly reshape their legal function to support innovation and deliver products for the next evolution in tech.

More 2019 Top 10 30-Somethings

Fernanda Beraldi

Brian Buckham

Thomas Cluderay

April A. Goff

Sadeq M. Kahn

William K. Piotrowski

Melissa Reiter

Alana C. St. Aude

Erin K. Stewart

About the Author

Joshua H. Shields is the managing editor of the Association of Corporate Counsel.

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