Secondment Comes at the Right Time for Power Home Remodeling’s Legal Department

Jennifer McGlinn, general counsel of Power Home Remodeling, and Gillian Cooper, associate at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr.

In July 2019, Jennifer McGlinn was made the first general counsel of Chester, Pennsylvania-based Power Home Remodeling, and she knew one of her tasks was to grow the legal department. While still trying to find a way to shape the department, in December she decided there needed to be a greater focus on employment and labor issues.

After meeting with representatives from  Saul, Ewing, Arnstein & Lehr, she found that a secondment would work best for her evolving legal department. In February, Gillian Cooper, an associate at Saul, Ewing, Arnstein & Lehr in Philadelphia, began working with McGlinn on labor and employment issues. The timing of that decision could not have been better, considering the national pandemic caused by the new coronavirus.

Before the pandemic, Cooper was already working on what she referred to as “human resources boot camp” and reviewing labor and employment law to help draft relevant work policies. However, when the new coronavirus began causing businesses to shut down, the team had a new set of challenges.

“When COVID-19 hit, there were overnight state and local ordinances and regulations that companies had to comply with,” Cooper explained. “It affected every area of the employee population.”

Like many companies, McGlinn and Cooper still had to contend with employee relations and labor and wage issues on top of the new challenges brought on by the pandemic. Now added to the workload were issues around furloughing employees, sending employees to work remotely, and issue around data privacy in handling confidential health data.

“Just because COVID-19 was happening did not mean that the traditional labor and employment issues employers had to deal with went away,” Cooper explained.

Despite working from home, Cooper and McGlinn worked with a pandemic task force at Power Home Remodeling to handle all of the employee-related issues.  The secondment, McGlinn said, was essential to handling the temporary furloughs that came with the pandemic. When employees came back to work, the company had a third-party conduct a survey which showed 96% of employees were happy with how Power Home Remodeling handled the pandemic.

“If we hadn’t had a partner like Gillian who had the same mindset to getting through this and that our employees and people are so important to us, I don’t think that team would have been as successful as it was,” McGlinn said.

Because the legal department at Power Home Remodeling is still growing, McGlinn said she would like to utilize the program again in the future.

“I’ve used these secondment programs in the past and I think Saul’s does an amazing job and takes a more unique approach,” McGlinn said. “They are really focused on employment and do this often with certain clients with short term needs.”

McGlinn said there was an in-depth meeting on what Power Home Remodeling’s legal needs were before Cooper came to the office.  McGlinn had not seen that before in previous secondments she had experience with. Saul Ewing also put together monthly roundtables with other general counsel in the same industry to work together.

Cooper, who is in her eighth year as an attorney, said the secondment gives her an opportunity to see how business leaders view the law and how she can focus on giving the best advice to her clients.

“We’re always thinking: ‘How we can give the best advice for a particular client?’ There is no better way to do that than to know your client. Not just the people, but the organization,” Cooper said.

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