ILNews

Indianapolis bottle cap company creates global legal work

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
In-House Counsel

A soda or water bottle on the desk at work or a jug of juice in the refrigerator at home might be merely a refreshing drink for most people.

But it’s a day at the office for Stephanie Blackman, a corporate attorney in the business of bottle caps or, as they are known in the food and beverage industry, closure systems.

As a vice president and general counsel at Closure Systems International (CSI), the Vanderbilt University Law School graduate works as the sole legal counsel for the Indianapolis-based company that has 31 manufacturing sites in 20 countries worldwide.

Though her position may entail some of the same legal responsibilities that other corporate counsel face in their jobs – human resources, contract review, corporate governance, and product review – Blackman’s position is unique in that it was created specifically for her about three years ago when the Indianapolis office opened.
 

Blackman-Stephanie-15col Stephanie Blackman is vice president and general counsel for Closure Systems International (CSI) in Indianapolis. She has worked at the company since 2008. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

“This has really been different from private practice, but it’s been eye-opening, rewarding, challenging, and fun for me,” Blackman said. “What I’ve noticed most is that with in house, there are a lot of balls in the air all the time.”

While in private practice she was able to focus on one case for a long stretch of time, now Blackman said her days involve much more project management and she must be diligent about keeping all of the balls in the air.

After graduating from law school in 2001, Blackman and her husband decided to move to Indianapolis despite not having any family or personal connections here – they just liked the city and what it offered, she says now. She began her legal career in Indianapolis working as an employment and labor law associate at Barnes & Thornburg.

On March 1, 2008, Alcoa completed the $2.5 billion sale of its packaging and consumer businesses to the private New Zealand company Rank Group Limited that included CSI, Flexible Package, Reynolds Food Packaging, and others. At the time, the packaging businesses had approximately 9,300 employees in about two dozen counties worldwide.

But there wasn’t an Indianapolis office, and within three months Blackman had traded her private law firm office for the new corporate counsel position. It was one of many other jobs created because of that sale, but Blackman says hers was and remains the only legal position here.

Her boss, CEO Lance Mitchell, said the legal position was created specifically because of the sale and subsequent revenue growth that’s meant new products, geographic expansion, and acquisitions.

“As one would anticipate, that growth has created a higher legal workload in intellectual property, customer contracts, purchasing contacts, and manufacturing footprint agreements,” he said, pointing to the first reason for the job’s creation. “The second reason is that Stephanie earned the opportunity for increased responsibility and career growth due to her demonstrated performance since joining our company.”

Responsible for all of CSI’s international business, Blackman’s scope of business includes the type of labor and employment work she once did privately, along with commercial and real estate issues and general corporate governance.

The nature of this closure business has changed dramatically during the past decade as the industry has been transformed by economic and environmental changes. These changes have translated to the creation of smaller, more lightweight caps and a growing trend to be more “green.” A standard 20-ounce bottle now has a closure about two-thirds to one-half the size of what it used to be, while a bottle of water might have a cap that’s half the original size. For those in the closure business, that means making caps with less surface area for someone to grip when opening or closing – a focus that gives Blackman much to do in the area of patents and intellectual property.

That IP area is one that Blackman says she’s found to be among the most intriguing aspects of her job.

“We’re talking about plastic closures – bottle caps – and they are surprisingly complex. There’s a whole range of IP issues wrapped up in any closure because we’re trying to create the best, lightest, smallest, and most tamper-resistant closure,” she said.

The company holds patents across the globe, and that means exposure to many differing cultures and laws within those countries, Blackman said. Most of the time, she deals with one specific geographic location and doesn’t need to compare laws between that region and the U.S., since the manufacturing sites and offices are located as close to the customer as possible.

“This company has such a global footprint, I don’t see much interplay between the U.S. and foreign laws,” she said. “I’m more able to make comparisons between our laws and theirs, and there have been a lot of surprises. Nothing radical or bad, just some things I didn’t expect and make this work even more interesting.”

For example, Blackman pointed to China where legal documents have to be signed in a certain type and color of ink – something that doesn’t warrant differences in legal strategy or policy but offers a twist that must be kept in mind when dealing with legal issues in that country.

“A seemingly easy task of getting something signed becomes a little more complicated because of different customs,” she said.

To keep up on some of those differences, Blackman said she tries to make at least one international trip each year. The company is divided into regions, and she goes to one of those spots to visit. This year, her plan is to visit the Asia-Pacific region.

No matter what she’s doing or where she’s at, Blackman said she tries to keep a sense of humor and good attitude about the work. An open-door policy making the legal department accessible and pleasant for everyone is very important to her, she said.

A resource Blackman said has helped her through the years has been the Association of Corporate Counsel. Blackman has been a board member for the Indiana chapter since 2009, giving her the chance to network and participate on the national level.

That has helped her to learn some of the nuances of the corporate counsel world that she is not able to learn from a mentor or fellow in-house lawyer at her specific company.

“The thing I love the most about being in house is that everyone within the company is on my team,” she said. “I’m very focused on creating solutions to any issues and trying to prevent problems that might come up.”•

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  2. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  3. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

ADVERTISEMENT