Follow ACC Docket Online:  

Top 10 30-Somethings 2018: Mary Gritzmacher

Top Ten 30 Somethings
Update: The nomination deadline has been extended to Friday, December, 14.

ACC's Top 10 30-Somethings program is now accepting nominations. The program recognizes the world's best in-house counsel between the ages of 30 and 39. During the nomination period, will feature profiles of the 2018 honorees, who showcase the innovation, proactive approach to challenges, strong global perspective, in-house advocacy, and commitment to pro bono and community service that have been become hallmarks of the program. Visit our Top 30-Somethings nomination page for more information.

For all the technological advancements in virtual meeting so ware, there's still something especially effective about face-to-face meetings. When CoorsTek, an international ceramic materials manufacturer, realized its European operations were distracted by decentralized contract management, inefficient use of outside counsel, and limited resources for everyday legal matters, the company tapped Mary Gritzmacher, the deputy general counsel and director of legal services, Europe, to relocate to Germany to sort out the situation.

"The first thing I did was book travel to every single office that we have in Europe to introduce myself and explain how I could be a resource for the business," she recalls. Her introductory tour took her to nine manufacturing facilities in five countries and established her reputation as a problem-solver.

Before Gritzmacher's move to Europe, CoorsTek's European business leaders engaged more expensive outside counsel instead of relying on the US-based in-house legal team at CoorsTek's headquarters in Golden, Colorado. The business leaders felt that the eight-hour time difference hindered swift solutions and that local lawyers had a better grasp of the European business and local law. The legal team is often a sounding board for problems and for brainstorming solutions, she explains, and the European business leaders were missing that resource.

Her reorganization of the department focused on European-specific matters. New contract management processes now ensure that the business is never slowed by legal. In addition, developing a matrix of when external legal expertise is warranted has dramatically reduced spending on outside counsel.

Gritzmacher contends that localized outside counsel are best used for litigation and employment issues, which are often in the local language and require specialized knowledge. She also developed relationships with local counsel who could take routine over ow work at moderate rates.

Now, each country has a dedicated outside counsel to handle local matters while using the company's in-house department for assistance on more strategic matters, such as CoorsTek's acquisition of a manufacturing and R&D facility in the Netherlands from a large Dutch corporation. Because Gritzmacher led the acquisition from the start, she had the chance to develop a comprehensive budget and precise billing guidelines, which substantially reduced outside spending on the acquisition.

With her perch in Europe, Gritzmacher was immediately aware of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). So, when she learned that CoorsTek was planning to implement an IT solution that would store personal data of all its global employees in the United States, alarm bells went off.

Gritzmacher partnered closely with IT and HR to develop the new IT solution in compliance with GDPR. She became intrigued with the complexities of GDPR and sought to enhance her knowledge by becoming a Certified Information Privacy Manager with the International Association of Privacy Professionals. Her success on this transition also allowed Gritzmacher to take charge of designing a global, company-wide compliance program covering matters ranging from data protection to anticorruption.

Grtitzmacher's talent for figuring out bureaucratic logjams extends beyond her professional endeavors. As a volunteer for a local nonprofit that supports low-income, disabled, and elderly persons, she helped a woman navigate the complexities of changing her first name on her birth certificate to match her name on other legal documents. Until Gritzmacher's assistance, the woman was unable to obtain her driver's license.

When Gritzmacher first joined CoorsTek, she was introduced to a place where she is constantly learning about new business opportunities for the company (it makes up to 2,500 different ceramic products and counting).

Years later, it has given her a chance to set up a continent-wide legal department that is reshaping the way CoorsTek operates and the way its legal team engages with its business globally. Her willingness to get in front of the issues — and business leaders — is key to the company's global success.

More Top 10 30-Somethings of 2018

Sheila Bangalore

Christopher Y. Chan

Steve Gangemi

Paul Lanois

Olga V. Mack

Shelly Paioff

Julie Ryan

Diana Toman

Greg Wu

About the Author

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

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.