Right now, NJBIZ is collecting nominations for its General Counsel of the Year awards. They're looking for “standout” in-house legal professionals, and in case you're wondering what exactly that means, I submit as a prime example Maria Chiclana, one of last year's winners.
Maria is the senior VP, general counsel and corporate secretary for American Standard Brands.
Her background includes a mix of in-house and private practice work, but she's always been particularly drawn to the role of general counsel.
"You're really connected to the business, and you facilitate that business strategy, and you're a core member of the executive leadership team," she told me. "I just like that hands-on type of work. I've always been intellectually curious, so I love to learn about all parts of the business."
And her business is going through a period of dramatic change.
The Piscataway-based company, which manufactures bathroom and kitchen fixtures, was recently acquired by a massive, $20 billion Japanese company called LIXIL, the No. 1 building products company in the world, Maria said.
"We're in the midst of a real big integration because they've been acquiring different companies. So now we have to put them all together under the LIXIL umbrella," she said. "They're in growth mode, so now we're in growth mode."
Chiclana was honored at NJBIZ's General Counsel awards ceremony back in June, and the acquisition was finalized in August. That timing, she said, was perfect in that it probably helped LIXIL see the value in the leadership team at American Standard.
"From a business standpoint, it was just great for the leadership team to have someone recognized by NJBIZ," Maria said.
"The leadership team has to sell the company, so to speak, to the acquiring company," she added. "(Accolades) are subtle, but I think they're important."
Beyond that, being honored also offered Maria an entree into the New Jersey business community. For a woman who spent the bulk of her career in New York, that has been a huge plus.
"It was an opportunity to network, to mentor others and to be mentored also by your peers," she told me. "It was nice to be introduced to that world."
So if you know someone who would make a good candidate for the honor, nominate that person, she said.
"I just think its such a great way to learn from others, and people can also reach out to you," she said. "The event was very positive."
For more information on the awards and deadlines for nominations, click here.