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Committee Spotlight: Ryan Evans of New to In-house

Tell us about your background and your law department.

I graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in business management before completing a joint JD/MBA degree at Boston University. I later obtained bar and real estate broker licenses in both California and Massachusetts. After graduate school, I worked as in-house counsel to a private franchisee company that owned and operated Wendy’s, Panera Bread, and Noodles & Company restaurants; and sat on the board of directors of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit employee benefit corporation. I previously worked in a solo capacity. Currently I serve as corporate counsel for Jack in the Box Inc., which operates and franchises over 2,200 Jack in the Box® and 600 Qdoba Mexican Eats® restaurants across the United States and Canada. My work is primarily transactional, focusing on franchising, real estate, and contracts.

What interested you in the in-house practice of law and how did you come to be an in your current position?

Ryan EvansI initially wanted to work in a big firm out of law school, but quickly realized after spending a summer doing first-year associate work that the rigidity of firm life wasn’t for me. By the time I graduated business school, my wife and I already had one child and another on the way, so we both liked the better balance that in-house practice offered. I was lucky enough to land an in-house position directly out of law school with a company that was a restaurant franchisee, and I parlayed that into my current position with Jack in the Box. They were looking for a young attorney with direct franchise experience, and I was the only one who fit the bill. I’d say my career path has been equal parts luck and preparation.

What is the single greatest challenge that your law department is facing today, and how are you dealing with it?

Besides all of the normal issues that face any law department, we’re dealing with a direct assault on the franchise model as a whole that affects our entire business. Over the last few years, the National Labor Relations Board has advanced a joint employer standard that has resulted in potential additional liability for all franchisors, so we’ve been tasked with finding ways to reduce our exposure to risk while still offering our franchisees value. Our legal department has faced this challenge primarily in the areas of employment and franchise law, and it’s been an interesting exercise to reexamine our current practices to see where we can refine how we operate.

In October 2016, you were elected as chair of the New to In-house Committee. How did you initially get involved?

Shortly after starting my first job as a lawyer, my boss encouraged me to join ACC. My first substantive exposure to ACC was the New to In-house Committee, and it just so happened that on the first committee call I joined, I answered the invitation to volunteer for the leadership committee. I figured it would be a great way to build my resume, learn from other new to in-house attorneys, and immerse myself in ACC. I’ve been serving on the committee in some capacity ever since.

What are some of the ways that the New to In-house Committee provides value to its members?

Going in-house for the first time can be a very daunting and lonely experience. Many of our members are the sole attorneys in their respective legal departments, so it’s great to know that there are people and resources to support them. In addition to the usual monthly calls, legal quick hits, and e-groups, we put out a “New to In-house Guide” last year that provides a primer (in outline form) on how to make the transition in-house. Many of the outlines contain bullet points with links to other resources, so it’s a great one-stop-shop for our members.

What substantive practice issues does your committee address?

We are a bit unique in the sense that we have members from a wide variety of backgrounds, practice areas, and experience levels. A member might be new to in-house directly out of law school as I was, or he might be seasoned attorney who is making the move in-house after 30 years in private practice. As a result, we try to hit different substantive issues that can appeal to a broad audience. We have recently focused on practice issues such as preparing a law department budget, mapping out a career path in-house, and attorney-client privilege tips.

How has the New to In-house Committee helped you in your career?

It’s been a fantastic experience to work with other similarly situated attorneys to participate in creating the content that makes ACC so valuable. I’ve learned so much from others and had a chance to grow both as a lawyer and a leader.

The information in any resource collected in this virtual library should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on specific facts and should not be considered representative of the views of its authors, its sponsors, and/or ACC. These resources are not intended as a definitive statement on the subject addressed. Rather, they are intended to serve as a tool providing practical advice and references for the busy in-house practitioner and other readers.