Legal Director for all of Dell’s federal businesses James Rittinger essentially runs a self-contained General Counsel’s Office within the federal sector. The executive manages a team of lawyers who handle everything from litigation, protests and legal guidance on employment, labor, contracting issues, unfair competition, trade secret protection and intellectual property. Rittinger spoke to Executive Biz and shared the challenges that come with his job, his most important daily responsibilities, and why Dell is the only “one stop shop” provider for products and services in the GovCon industry.
ExecutiveBiz: What is your most important task of the day?
James Rittinger: I’m not sure task is the right term. I think my most important responsibility is to balance what I view as my two prime responsibilities which are, mitigating risk for the business but at the same time being a strong advocate for the business. As a General Counsel, you are there to provide guidance to your management to help identify and mitigate against where there is legal risk to the business. By the same token, you don’t want to be in a position where you are constantly telling an entrepreneurial business like this that they can’t do certain things. You have to work hard to come up with solutions that allow them to go forward with their sales strategies and to help them achieve their business goals. In doing so, you have to be a strong advocate for the business; with the customers internally, with your own personnel and sometimes within the bigger Dell universe to explain ‘this is what we are going to do and this is why we are going to do it.’ Every day I get up and that is what I’m thinking about doing.
ExecutiveBiz: What challenges do you find in your position?
James Rittinger: I think the challenges are primarily the product of managing a legal department for a multi-billion dollar entity with thousands of employees spread across the country and some overseas as well. I manage attorneys in Virginia and in Texas and the business that we are serving is an extremely dynamic, fast moving business. We have to be able to deliver the right answers in a timely fashion to the business and we have to do it every day. The challenge is really keeping up with the business and making sure that we are providing that timely service, helping them achieve their goals and not delaying them.
ExecutiveBiz: What does Dell do better than anyone else in the same industry?
James Rittinger: I think that we are the only government contracting entity now that is a one stop shop for both product and services. With HP getting largely out of the product business, Dell is really the last man standing in terms of providing customers with a full suite of services and a full suite of products. I think that is a tremendous competitive advantage for the company. I think you are going to see that reflected over the next couple of years.
ExecutiveBiz: Speaking of the next couple of years; where would you like to see Dell in five years?
James Rittinger: I think I’d like to see us continue to build on our reputation as an industry leader in government contracting. I think we are already a leading company because of the competitive advantages that I think we enjoy now in terms of being that one stop shop for services and products. I think that our position in the industry is only going to grow. I expect to see dynamic growth over the next five years. I expect to see us at the very top or certainly very near the very top of the leading government contracting companies that are out there today.
ExecutiveBiz: Is there anything else you would like for us to know about Dell, to know about your job, anything that is significant that you want to leave the interview with?
James Rittinger: Just that I think it is a great company. I think the integration of the services and the product business has gone better than anybody could have expected. I think that we have a very bright future. That’s the take-away that you should have.