Q&A with Faegre’s Kerry Bundy and Dairy Queen
Illustration by Jonathan Hankin
Among the 2017 class of Hall of Famers, Kerry Bundy of Faegre Baker Daniels is a seasoned attorney with a breadth of experience in and out of the courtroom. She and her clients Jen Beck and Shelly O’Callaghan, both of Dairy Queen, discuss their longstanding legal relationship and how they work together to tackle the legacy brand’s unique legal issues.
How did you two begin working together?
Jen Beck: Our philosophy is that we hire lawyers, not necessarily firms. I think you’ll hear that more from across the industry.
We had some connection to a couple of attorneys that actually moved to Faegre a number of years ago, so that’s how we first got involved with the firm. Those were colleagues of Kerry’s and over time, they brought her into a lot of our matters and she started to get to know our business, we started to get to know her. And as the opportunity arose, we got to work more primarily with Kerry.
Kerry Bundy: From my perspective, that’s exactly how it works. Finding an opportunity and getting to work on a matter and building trust and rapport and getting good results. Then continuing to increase that relationship.
Fortunately for me and my team, we’ve been able to do that with Dairy Queen from working on matters to leading matters and bringing in colleagues of mine. It’s fantastic.
What are some of the unique aspects of the Dairy Queen legal department?
Jen Beck: Dairy Queen’s system has been around for a long time and we have lots and lots of history and lots of different forms of agreements. We’ve got agreements going back to the 1940s and 1950s that are very, very different from the franchise agreements that you see today. That can lead to lots of different challenges for us as we go to enforce some new system standard or initiative.
A lot of the issues we’ve pulled Kerry and her team into really have to do with navigating the different forms of agreements, the different relationships and the history that we’ve got with generations of the same family that have been with the business for a long time.
Shelly O’Callaghan: As we’re dealing with a system with a lot of heritage and a lot of history, we want to make sure that we’re respecting that heritage and what the longtime operators have done to build the business. At the same time we’re making sure we’re keeping the brand relevant to today’s consumer. Finding that balance of how do we navigate embracing our heritage while also embracing change and current trends is a theme that we deal with on a regular basis with Kerry and her team.
What keeps her at the top of the pile when legal issues come up?
Jen Beck: We’ve got a pretty experienced legal team here at DQ in house, and we do a lot of the work in house ourselves. So when we do look outside for help on an issue or litigation matter, it’s really, really important to us that we work as a team and that we stay involved, that we’re consulted and that we feel our voice is heard. That’s the big thing—that open communication and a little bit of flexibility.
We’ve got a lot of nuances related to contracts and history and heritage. So it’s really important to us that our outside counsel understands those nuances.
And Kerry, why do you like working with Dairy Queen?
They really have a sophisticated legal department that is engaged, that understands their business, they’re good communicators, they’re responsive. They really give us the tools to do what we’re hired to do. And that’s not something that should be taken for granted because it’s not universal.
That’s what makes it so fun to work with them, too, to be able to have an experienced legal team that is engaged. When we’re getting ready for a hearing, they’re responsive, they’re communicating, they’re getting their witness together. We’re truly working together in the trenches, and that makes it so much easier for an outside counsel to get the objective, both legal objective of winning as well as coming up with a solution that meets their business objective.
What guidance do you have for other brands looking for a good legal relationship like that?
Jen Beck: It’s trust and communication and understanding the system.
Passion for the brand is part of our DNA here at DQ. We have been entrusted with a brand that has a 75-year history, and we know that we are responsible for making sure that legacy continues. We do that through our franchisees and their businesses, so it is critical that when we have difficult issues to work through, our outside advisers share our passion and care for the brand, and our view that the outcomes need to be win-win whenever possible.
And being proactive about issues is very important. We like to think that we do a good job ourselves of being up to date, we go to the conferences and we’re on the news feed. We’ve got lot and lots of information coming at us.
But Kerry and her team are out there on the front lines, so they come across issues in their own practice that haven’t really hit the wire yet that we wouldn’t necessarily know about.
Kerry Bundy: They really are working on that franchise relationship and they want it to work. It’s not just enforcing terms for the sake of enforcing them. So knowing that they are wearing the white hat is really important to me and gives me the passion to represent them to the maximum extent because of what they are doing, I know that they are passionate about it and it’s for the good of the system. Dairy Queen really is a leader in my mind in that regard.
And they invite me to taste tests sometimes, so there are perks.