Andrew Landrum, L'16

Andrew Landrum

As part of our spotlight on Richmond Law alumni working in business law, we are excited to profile Andrew T. Landrum, L’16 and Manager, Counsel: Consumer & Small Business Legal at Capital One.

Can you describe the career path that led you to working in-house at Capital One?

I started my career doing general practice work in Lynchburg, VA, with a focus on litigation. I loved my firm, but I wanted to move back to Richmond after meeting my now-wife. While in Richmond, I was looking for work and there was an opportunity to go on contract with McGuireWoods to support their Employment group. It was a unique opportunity and I was eventually brought on more formally, splitting my time between internal investigations and financial services litigation. I had a lot of great experiences; it’s a wonderful firm and I was able to appear frequently in courthouses across the state and help manage occasional appeals to the Fourth Circuit and/or Virginia Supreme Court. I was grateful for the opportunity but I wanted more balance as my wife and I looked towards building our family.

Capital One has a phenomenal reputation in the Richmond area and I know a few alumnus who moved and loved it. Because they have a broad array of legal teams, going in-house didn’t relegate me to transactional work. Today, I have a broad portfolio where I can (a) counsel business and risk groups within our credit card and small business organizations, (b) supervise nationwide state court litigation, and (c) provide subject matter expertise to cross-functional teams for certain consumer protection laws and regulations. I’m grateful to have a diverse practice that scratches the litigation itch without needing to burn the midnight oil as often.

Can you describe a typical work day? What are the common tasks that junior lawyers do in your practice?

Meetings, meetings, meetings. If you want to go in-house, be ready for meetings! My day usually is spent answering emails and checking in on industry/legal trends. When meetings start, I’m often chatting with business partners on new or growing initiatives, working with risk and compliance on internal matters, and/or meeting with law firms to discuss litigation or changes to law/regulation. When I’m not in meetings, I’m preparing for meetings, or answering emails and occasionally researching (yes, we still use Westlaw).

 However, my actual tasks look much more like powerpoints than briefs. I’m more often communicating with business leadership and law firm management, and I am more often the person receiving the report and making strategic decisions in litigation, so my approach and communication style is different from what it was when I was a junior private practice lawyer. Every day brings something new and there’s always a lot going on, so you often have to rely on good, common sense judgment and wise time management when deciding where and how you’ll spend your time.

Do you mainly work with other attorneys or with non-attorneys within Capital One?

It’s a mix of both. A good in-house lawyer is also a trusted business thought-partner. This means I’m included when my business partners consider a new initiative and I work with them daily to help them accomplish their goals. There are also sophisticated corporate professionals who we partner with to communicate legal requirements, like compliance and risk.

I also work with other lawyers all the time. Financial services is a complex industry so it’s common for one initiative or matter to involve a number of lawyers specializing in different laws and regulations. From that perspective, I’m often working with other in-house lawyers to make sure all relevant expertise is considered. With litigation or new laws / regulations, I often work with law firms of all sizes to help make the right decisions.

What is the best part of your practice? What is the most challenging part?

The best and most challenging parts are the same: there’s something new every day. This is great because you’re always learning and being challenged. As business counsel, you’re often the first person departments and business groups look to for legal advice, even if it’s unrelated to your daily objectives (e.g. tax, employment, antitrust). This is a great opportunity to work alongside other professionals that help you grow your knowledge and expertise in a way that’s relatively unique to in-house life. However, change can bring its own challenges. Sometimes the departments reorganize and/or folks from leadership to key individual contributors leave, which requires you as that group’s in-house lawyer to retrain new folks on risk and requirements, while helping current initiatives to progress business-as-usual. Different personalities can lend themselves to different work styles, so having a decent EQ + knowing how to communicate and influence across different personalities and new ideas is both an important skill and motivating challenge.

How is the in-house department structured in such a large company? Do you work for a specific department or are you in a general in-house team?

Again, it’s a mix of both. There is a general in-house Legal department that’s divided into practice groups. Some practice groups are organized for the folks who specialize in laws across the enterprise, and others like mine are organized to align with the business’ organization (e.g. credit card lawyers are organized to align with the credit card business structure).

Do you have any advice for students hoping to break into this field and work in-house? Any classes you recommend or classes you wish you had taken?

I would recommend to anyone who wants to go in-house, grab a few years of practical experience before making the move. Whether you want to do transactional, regulatory, or litigation, knowing how the world works in those contexts and being able to pull from personal experience is invaluable when assessing risk and providing guidance. However, being a great law firm associate doesn’t guarantee success in-house; the roles are different and require a unique set of skills. If you are able to get business experience or take classes focusing on business principles, that should serve you well going in-house. You’ll be working for a company or organization with a set of goals, budgets, and cost constraints, so being able to understand how a company sets, funds, and achieves milestones will build nuance into your legal advice as both counsel and thought-partner. From a company’s branding perspective, it also helps you better understand reputational risk, which is not something talked about as much in private practice.

For classes, I always recommend students study and focus on civil procedure, legal writing, and evidence. It’s not the most fun, but my personal experience is knowing the ins-and-outs of the rules can distinguish you quickly in and outside Court.