In-House Counsel Perspectives: Tanya Miari

Interviewed by Kenny Matuszewski

On September 23, 2019, Tanya Miari, Senior Counsel of Marketing and Intellectual Property at McDonald’s Corporation, spoke at the YLS IP Committee’s first meeting of the year. A webcast of the meeting can be viewed here, and further insight about her role is found below:

What is your full title and which company do you work for?

Tanya: Senior Counsel, Marketing & Intellectual Property Legal Team; McDonald’s Corporation

What area of law did you practice before you went in-house?

Tanya: I graduated from DePaul University College of Law with a certificate in Intellectual Property, and I have practiced IP law my entire career.

What made you want to work as an in-house attorney?

Tanya: As an IP lawyer, much of my practice involves protecting and enforcing clients’ IP.  The idea of working for a company directly and being able to counsel my client during the development stages, protecting its IP, and then creating an enforcement strategy was very appealing to me.  I was also drawn to the opportunity to focus on a particular company and manage a global IP portfolio.  Being able to have a real direct business impact is both compelling and gratifying for me.

What is a typical day like for you?

Tanya: As many in-house counsel will tell you, the practice is very fast-paced. Oftentimes, issues arise that require a quick response.  So, my day-to-day can vary drastically.  But, generally speaking, I liaise with local counsel around the world, so much of my communication is via email, due to time zone differences.  Each day I correspond with numerous local counsel on various pending enforcement matters.  I am also responsible for local advertising review and certain licensing agreements, which sometimes require client phone calls or meetings.  If there are other broader projects also in process, I will likely have meetings related to those projects as well.

When you spoke at the YLS IP Committee’s meeting back in September, you mentioned that you have a large legal team. How has this helped you and your work at McDonald’s?

Tanya: In my opinion, McDonald’s is unlike most in-house positions, due to the fact that it has a very large in-house legal team.  Often, in-house legal teams are much smaller.  I find working as part of a large in-house legal team to be the best of both worlds.  We handle much of the work internally, but there are various subject matter experts to consult with, if necessary.  From a professional development standpoint, I find that being part of a larger team provides opportunities for exposure to other areas of law, which allows you to broaden your experience.

Do you think your ability to develop and grow your skills would have differed if you started at a company with a smaller legal department?

Tanya: A smaller legal department would certainly be different, but I expect it would have its own unique benefits and challenges.  I think it is important to take ownership of your own career and professional development.  Once you become proactive about seeking opportunities, I believe you will be able to find them wherever you may be.

In your presentation, you mentioned that you have to work with clients and counsel around the world. What, if anything, should in-house counsel know when working with lawyers from other countries?

Tanya: Due to the volume of matters I handle, I rely quite heavily on my outside counsel.  It is important to create and maintain relationships with high quality outside counsel.  Having those connections in place will enable you to quickly address issues when they arise and will ensure that your matter will be handled efficiently.  Beyond that, it is important to be cognizant of local customs and expectations.  From a relationship perspective, it is helpful to be aware of particular greetings, salutations, and tone when addressing colleagues in other markets.  From a substantive perspective, it is important to be aware of any unique laws or regulations in a market, as that may impact your analysis or client advice.

What has been your favorite experience at McDonald’s?

Tanya: As a corporate employee, we have the option of doing restaurant training, which is a full-day, in-restaurant experience.  I am grateful for this opportunity because it is helpful to learn how our restaurants run, and how certain promotions or initiatives impact the crew on a daily basis.  The crew runs the restaurants quickly and efficiently, and it is fascinating to see how well-orchestrated the work behind the counter can be.  Seeing the restaurant from this viewpoint also provides another perspective to consider when counseling our clients on certain projects.

What advice would you give to YLS members who want to work in-house?

Tanya: Network!  You never know who will end up going in-house or who may connect you to an open position in-house.

Do you think networking becomes more important or less important when you go in-house? How has it changed for you, if at all?

Tanya: I think networking is always important.  Of course, the ultimate goal shifts when you are networking as a law firm lawyer, versus an in-house lawyer.  As an in-house lawyer I am not networking to bring in business, but I am still looking to make connections with colleagues in the legal field for a number of reasons.

What advice would you have given yourself when you first started practicing?

Tanya: Take on any work that you can and try to learn as much as possible.

Do you have any last pieces of advice for our readers?

Tanya: Don’t be afraid to try–you know more than you think!

About Tanya:

Tanya Miari is Senior Counsel on McDonald’s Marketing and Intellectual Property Legal Team.  She is responsible for global trademark enforcement, supports global trademark clearance and prosecution, and manages McDonald’s global IP licensing structure, including drafting master license and related agreements for the McDonald’s system.  Tanya also provides legal counsel to global marketing and communications partners on all aspects of advertising law, including legal review of advertising materials, social media, claim substantiation, promotions, production rights and releases, and regulatory compliance.

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