Insomnia Cookies has been growing fast, and Legal Director Mary Beth Martinez is thrilled to be a part of it. She was drawn to the Philadelphia-based late-night bakery chain, which launched in 2003 and today has more than 230 stores nationwide, because of its momentum.
“That’s what excited me about joining Insomnia: the rapid expansion and how quickly they were growing talent,” she explains.
Martinez welcomed a chance to build infrastructure, policies, and processes. “I really enjoy being at a company that is growing very fast, and that offers the opportunity to put your own unique fingerprint on its operations and on the company’s future,” she adds.
Insomnia Cookies, which specializes in the retail sale and delivery of warm cookies, ice cream, brownies, and other baked goods, originally made an impression on Martinez when she moved to New York City after a clerkship for a judge on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
Working with the litigation group at Eversheds Sutherland, she lived steps from an Insomnia Cookies location. Three years later, she went in-house with WeWork, staying for four years as the company expanded internationally at a rapid clip, then joined Insomnia Cookies.
“I had a great law firm experience, but I think it’s a very different world from a cookie company,” she says. “It’s extremely challenging, but my work at Insomnia Cookies comes with a lot of opportunities that you don’t get at a law firm or a larger corporation.”
Today, Martinez is part of a four-person team and reports directly to the company’s chief legal officer. She’s in charge of the legal team’s day-to-day operations, with two junior attorneys reporting to her as the team navigates everything from leasing and contract negotiations to food safety, intellectual property, employment, and supply chain issues.
A typical day sees Martinez fielding questions from her team and beyond. Questions come in about topics as wide-ranging as manufacturing, tech initiatives, launching new items, and marketing campaigns.
“You’re not just citing statutes or random laws to people: our stakeholders really want to know how we see the risk with a project or initiative they’re trying to undertake,” she explains. In that way, the job goes even beyond the law. “That’s the really fun part of a role like this. Everything is not purely legal; you get to flex your business muscles.”
Managing and developing junior attorneys is also a rewarding part of her job. “I’ve been able to think so much over the last couple years about what type of leader I want to be, and I believe the only way to unlock potential is by giving people room to work,” Martinez says.
The legal director explains she provides attorneys the opportunity to “bubble up” any questions or issues, but values giving them the chance to take ownership of their work, think strategically, and exercise their own judgment. “I’m proud to say it works pretty well,” she says. “We are in such a good rhythm. Otherwise, there’s no way we’d be able to juggle everything that comes across our desks every day.”
Because of the company’s rapid expansion domestically and soon internationally in the UK and Canada, Martinez has developed playbooks for lease and other contract negotiations, which help her team work faster. They’re used both internally and by outside counsel, which they sometimes engage to manage volume.
Getting process onto paper has helped everyone align and work more efficiently. “We’re creating infrastructure that is scalable so we can keep protecting the company from risk, answering all of our clients’ questions, giving great service, while not slowing things down,” she says. “We want to move quickly and effectively.”
Since she joined Insomnia Cookies in 2021, she’s watched the company build out ranks of directors and vice presidents who are experts in their fields. As part of the company’s eleven-person cross-functional leadership team, known as the STAR team, she’s been able to contribute meaningfully to the company’s collaboration efforts.
“Instead of just having everyone in silos, we are working together all the time,” she says. With two standing weekly calls and a dedicated Slack channel, it’s been a boon for brainstorming and achieving results.
Martinez encourages young professionals to stay grounded. Good leaders and good companies encourage employees to strike a balance between their careers and family or personal priorities, and if they don’t, it’s up to the employee to set boundaries.
“Decide what type of leader or professional you want to be and stand firm in your convictions,” she asserts. “It’s easy to get blinders and lose perspective. I think it’s really important to hustle, do what you love, but remember that the hustle isn’t everything,” Martinez adds. “Approach those around you with the same empathy you’d want from your leader and your company.”
Jackson Lewis P.C. congratulates our friend and client Mary Beth Martinez on this well-deserve honor. We value our partnership with Insomnia Cookies. Focused on labor and employment law since 1958, our 950+ attorneys located in cities nationwide identify and respond to new ways workplace law intersects business.