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Legal Value Network Member Spotlight - Kristen Cook

Updated: Feb 24, 2022

How did you get into this field?

I currently serve as Deputy General Counsel of 7-Eleven, Inc. I came to 7-Eleven after five years with a firm, practicing primarily in real estate law. My role at 7-Eleven was a newly created one and came with an extremely high volume of demands from many different areas in the real estate team. I had to learn how to be more efficient with my time and, unlike at a law firm, I was not incentivized to bill more hours. The goal was to serve the client quickly and efficiently with high-quality legal advice.

In my first months in-house, I was introduced to process mapping and efficiency techniques with some of our higher volume real estate work. The efforts were not uniformly applied but it was my first taste of the formalized process of evaluating waste and streamlining workflows. In the coming years, I was able to work with e-billing implementation and law firm convergence. Once I started seeing the benefits of process improvement, I looked for every opportunity to expand my experience in Legal Operations. I don’t think I even knew the term “Legal Operations” until 2017 but I knew I loved the benefits of improving workflows.

What do you love most about what you do?

I love the fast-paced nature of my job and that each year brings new challenges. In Legal Operations, I love measuring progress. It is very gratifying to be able to measure where we started and where we finished in any initiative. I also have to remind myself to stop and relish these wins. Paraphrasing Peter Drucker, if you don’t measure it, you can’t manage or improve it.

What are some of the challenges you face?

7-Eleven acquired Speedway LLC and its 4,000 stores in May 2021. With the acquisition, our legal department has significantly expanded in size and gained many new team members. We are learning to manage virtual and hybrid work, multiple offices, and building a culture in the midst of so much change. I have spent a significant portion of the last twelve months focusing on building out the in-house legal team, defining and establishing clear roles and responsibilities within the department, and strengthening our legal culture in a hybrid environment with a new team. While I understand all of us are suffering from meeting and screen fatigue, as a leader, it is incumbent that we find ways to overcome these challenges and build a cohesive legal department to serve the needs of the company.

How has your role changed in the past couple of years?

I was promoted to the role of Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of 7-Eleven in July 2021. I had previously served as Associate General Counsel of 7-Eleven for the prior two and a half years. In the new role, my job expanded from managing real estate, fuel and environmental legal matters, to overseeing multiple cross-functional disciplines, advising on issues arising in all legal specialties, and assisting our General Counsel in the administration of the legal department. There are some practice areas in which I have no training or experience, but, as a leader, I am learning to still add value in those areas while allowing my direct reports to have autonomy. I am also focusing on how to be more strategic and how to identify and advise executives on macro problems throughout the company and department.

What is a fun or surprising fact about yourself?

I grew up in a small Texas town of 4,000 people called Comanche. The town is so small that at the time I lived in Comanche, there were only 3 stoplights in the town. I was the point guard and co-captain of the 1998 Texas Girls’ Basketball 3A Championship Team. I have a photo of me receiving a medal from President George W. Bush, who at the time was the governor of Texas.

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