For Dell’s Christopher Garcia, the Risks Pay Off

The senior VP of legal uses technology to a foster a culture of smart legal risk

Christopher Garcia, Senior Vice President of Legal, Dell Technologies Photo: Nicole Connolly

When most people think of the characteristics of a successful attorney, the term “risk-taker” does not typically come to mind. Christopher Garcia is out to change that.

Of course, he does not encourage attorneys to take risks without thinking. “Smart risk is a cornerstone of our legal practice at Dell Technologies,” Garcia asserts. “Here at Dell, we are willing to take risks as long as they are not disproportionate to the benefit. This may seem like common sense, but it has been game-changing at Dell to know that the legal advice a business leader receives will be pragmatic and aligned to our business goals.”

Christopher Garcia, SVP of Legal, Dell Technologies, portrait
Photo: Nicole Connolly

According to Garcia, the secret to Dell’s smart risk culture has been consistency. As the company and legal department grew over the years, Dell realized that hundreds of team members providing legal advice across more than one hundred countries with local laws, unique business practices, and nuanced cultural landscapes will inevitably have different perceptions of reasonable risk.

Those differences, Garcia says, can stifle the velocity of a global business initiative unless everyone is aligned on the same decision-making framework. To accomplish that, the Dell legal team works individually with every team member around the world to ensure that each one understands their business-centric, smart risk approach. Garcia also helps the legal team formulate a reasonable view of outcomes, rather than a sole focus on the worst possible result, by ensuring that they provide both a legal analysis and an enterprise risk assessment.

“Taking smart risks consistently and at scale is a significant challenge,” Garcia admits. “But it’s the companies that can move quickly and be comfortable with various levels of risk that are going to succeed.”

In Garcia’s mind, a company can only take successful risks if the people making those decisions are well-informed. In addition to making sure that everyone on Dell’s global legal team is on the same page regarding risk assessments, the Dell legal team is also embarking on an ambitious digital transformation of the legal department.

“We are leveraging the same Dell solutions that we provide to customers in order to assess workflow and implement intelligent automation, and we’re also moving our legal contracts to a structured, global data tool,” reports Garcia. “I believe that the best and brightest attorneys and legal teams will be armed with technology-based decision making. I appreciate that the legal industry is worried about the negative job impacts of automation and AI, but at Dell, we’re using those technologies to create super attorneys.”

“The legal industry is worried about the negative job impacts of automation and AI, but at Dell, we’re using those technologies to create super attorneys.”

As Garcia explains, technology does more than enable his legal team to make faster decisions—it also empowers them to make those decisions based on concrete data rather than gut instincts, which is the historical norm in legal environments. “Essentially, technology allows us to lean further into risk,” Garcia remarks. “It enables us to capture the details of legal agreements, map the provisions to a risk profile, and thus confidently execute decisions much closer to the front lines. It ensures that we’re not taking risks blind.”

A critical component of this technology-driven legal approach, Garcia notes, is Dell’s working partnership with Knowable. Knowable specializes in gaining machine learning-based visibility into business contracts, a service that plays a foundational role in Dell’s creation of a smart contracts database that connects negotiation playbooks and contract approval workflow tools.

“We have worked with individual team members from Knowable for quite some time, so we had a long-standing relationship with them and had a lot of mutual respect and trust,” Garcia explains. “But when we as a legal team decided to undertake our own digital transformation, which we have coined the ‘Future of Legal initiative,’ Knowable became a key partner to us and our strategy.

“In the past, a team member could only guess how often we adopted a certain contract position or the number of times a certain risk was realized,” Garcia continues. “Going forward with help from Knowable, we expect to both operate at a high level of insight on an everyday basis and address risks before they even arise through proactive risk management.”

All of these changes will help Dell maintain its place at the cutting edge of technology, Garcia says, but they would not be possible without the company’s entrepreneurial culture. “We don’t have a lot of management layers, so the whole company empowers team members to make decisions and take risks,” he says. That culture is actually one of the primary reasons he joined Dell in the first place, more than thirteen years ago.

The other was Dell’s reputation for management excellence. “Even from its early days, Dell was a case study in excellence and execution,” Garcia remembers. Today, Dell continues its legacy as a leader in the industry by committing to social and corporate responsibility. “We recently concluded a multiyear campaign that we referred to as the ‘2020 Legacy of Good,’” Garcia says. “It launched in 2013 looking ahead to 2020, and it galvanized us to closely examine the most pressing challenges facing our people and planet.” Garcia adds, “At Dell we love to win, but there is no point in winning unless you do it the right way. That puts ethics and corporate social responsibility at the heart of everything that we do.”

Garcia is proud to say that Dell has exceeded the goals outlined in the 2020 Legacy of Good initiative. “We met our goal to use one-hundred million pounds of sustainable materials in our products, focused on building the diverse workforce of the future, recovered two billion pounds in used electronics, and more,” notes Garcia. “And those initiatives have furthermore set a strong foundation for extending our commitment to our new plan: ‘Progress Made Real—Our Vision for 2030.’”

 


A Message from Knowable Inc.
“Knowable is proud to celebrate the accomplishments of Chistopher Garcia. As the market leaders in the fast-growing field of Contracts Intelligence, we look forward to our continued partnership with Christopher and with Dell to drive ever more innovation that unlocks the business value trapped in clients’ unstructured agreements.”
—Brendan Nelson, Executive Vice President, Product and Client Service