This is Utah Business Magazine’s second annual Corporate Counsel awards. Honorees are selected by a committee from a competitive field of in-house Utah attorneys and recognized for their exceptional counsel within businesses, nonprofits, and other private organizations.
McNeal has been working with Extra Space Storage for 13 years. Prior to joining the Extra Space Storage team, she worked as outside counsel for the self storage company. McNeal says she was drawn to in-house counsel because it was an opportunity to help the company accomplish both short and long-term goals.
“At Extra Space Storage, we are focused on helping our customers to a better tomorrow,” McNeal says. “While my focus may relate more to the legal or HR aspects of that goal, I am still working on the same goal as everyone else at Extra Space Storage, which is inherently more rewarding to me than solving a specific problem.”
Self storage in general is not a highly regulated industry, but Extra Space Storage is a publicly-traded company and REIT, which means it’s subject to regulation and shareholder approval. This poses unique legal challenges for McNeal and the department.
“I work to ensure we stay compliant with the public company and REIT laws, as well as helping our board of directors understand what our shareholders expect from us with respect to our corporate governance policies,” she explains.
McNeal also works with the HR department, helping to determine strategies and goals that allow Extra Space Storage to attract, retain, and develop top talent.
“Extra Space Storage is committed to diversity, and that starts with our executive team,” she says. “I bring a diverse perspective as the only woman on the executive team. In addition, I look at the issues that we are discussing with the unique perspective of the legal and HR lens. I approach our discussions trying to understand the inherent risks, but more importantly trying to quantify and mitigate those risks. I also always try and understand how our decisions will affect the daily working lives of our 3,500 employees.”
For companies seeking in-house counsel, McNeal recommends looking for an attorney who isn’t just a risk-spotter, but who can also be a business partner.
“Attorneys are great at spotting risks, but the good ones are also creative at solving the problems posed by the risk. If you hire in-house counsel who acts more as the risk police than as a business partner, then ultimately your business people will figure out how to do an end-run around in-house counsel. Hire someone who can see the bigger picture, and you will end up with a business partner upon whom you can rely.”