Canadian Lawyer InHouse

November/December 2019

Legal news and trends for Canadian in-house counsel and c-suite executives

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Page 38 of 43 39 GC PROFILE THE RELATIONSHIP between in-house counsel and external law firms is a critical part of the operation of many businesses. Having worked on both sides of the fence, Av Maharaj has come to appreciate and understand the needs of both and the importance of culti- vating long-term partnerships. He left his position as counsel at Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP to return to the in-house side in 2016, in order to pursue his interest in the business aspects of the law at the newly amalgamated operations of Kraft Heinz Canada. Initially appointed as general counsel, his scope has since broadened to include other aspects of the business for which he has developed a passion. He now wears multiple hats, holding the title of vice president, legal, corporate affairs and human resources. "I missed being a general counsel. I like having the ability to branch out beyond law and to make decisions that you're unable to make as external counsel," he says. "To be integrated into the business and to see the results of the decisions you've made and the advice you've given is really appealing to me." Maharaj has leveraged his connections with law firms to bring in the best possible legal expertise to assist the operations at Kraft Heinz. He successfully challenged his external partners to work in greater alignment with his team's goals and the business's broader goals. "Having the right external counsel is important to any general counsel. The pace of work at Kraft Heinz is incredibly quick. I need Managing costs through partnerships A predictable cost model fosters strong relationships between Kraft Heinz Canada's Av Maharaj and external counsel really solid responses and capable external counsel, and that is what I have," says Maharaj. In order to comply with the food and beverage giant's strict budgeting regulations, Maharaj helped to implement a predictable cost model that would provide certainty on most of the firm's day-to-day legal expendi- ture. Under the new model, a flat-fee arrange- ment was made with Fasken Martineau and Dentons LLP. "The big issue with the way Kraft Heinz is set up is we're very conscious of our budget- ing," says Maharaj. "There can be issues if you miss your budget. In essence, we have two great partners that enable us to expand our legal advice without the worry of cost because we have a fair degree of cost certainty over more than 70 per cent of our legal spend." Kraft Heinz is now looking to adapt the successful model for international use, and it has also been adapted by external counsel for other clients. Throughout his varied career, promoting and advocating for diversity in the legal profession has always been among Maharaj's priorities. As former chairman of Legal Leaders for Diversity, Maharaj was also the founding executive sponsor of the Kellogg Canada Diversity & Inclusion Council. He went on to initiate a similar diversity and inclusion committee at Kraft Heinz Canada, which aims to give equal opportunities to all people. "All organizations need to recognize that everybody should have a seat at the table," he says. "We want to give everybody the opportu- nity to feel included and to make decisions here at Kraft Heinz. We need to make sure we're doing everything we can to let our people know that they are valued." Under his leader- ship and guidance, Kraft Heinz Canada initiated a speaker series, which has included a company-wide conference celebrating women in business. Starting his career as an associate at Blake Cassels and Graydon in 1998, Maharaj progressed to Fasken Martineau in 2002 before his first foray into the in-house side when he joined Kellogg Canada in 2004 as chief legal officer, serving as a member of the executive leadership team. In 2008, he went on to become Kellogg's vice president and chief counsel, international, taking on responsibility for the legal operations of the business outside of the U.S. before the company's multi-bil- "To be integrated into the business and to see the results of the decisions you've made and the advice you've given is really appealing to me."

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