Lauren Thedford works with, not against, executives and managers at Highland Capital Management to give sound legal advice
Tasked with making sure companies comply with laws and regulations, corporate legal teams have developed a reputation for raising a red flag. Corporate culture, however, is changing, inviting departments that used to be kept separate and apart to work more with company managers, executives, and even those in the C-suite. For Lauren Thedford, associate general counsel at Highland Capital Management LP, such inclusivity is an important part of providing value.
“Unlike the typical legal team that just says no, our legal team is business oriented,” she says. “We try to take a deeper dive when considering the ultimate business goal and how to make it happen. I like to think other teams at Highland view us as a partner rather than a roadblock. We understand the funds and why we may not be able to do something one way but can still reach the ultimate goal by considering other options. We’re a collaborative group, working together to support the business objectives.”
Based in Dallas and founded in 1993, Highland Capital Management is a multibillion-dollar global alternative investment manager with more than $12 billion in assets under management. Thedford, too, is a Texan, from the Dallas suburb of Carrollton. She’s the younger of two children born to Richard Thedford, an administrator for the Plano Independent School District, and Karen LaCroix, a human resources executive. Thedford considers her mother her earliest mentor, having watched her juggle a full-time position while still caring for her children.
“I saw how she asserted herself and dealt with difficult issues,” Thedford says. “Maybe her HR background helped, but she was a great sounding board as well. When something happened and I needed feedback, she’d let me know if I was out of line.”
Thedford also looked up to her college volleyball coach at West Texas A&M University, Tony Graystone, who not only instilled a respect for the game but also values such as loyalty, pride, discipline, and teamwork—all of which have elevated her work at Highland.
Becoming an in-house lawyer, however, was not her childhood dream but rather a logical choice. She knew she wanted to go to graduate school, and as a political science major (and Spanish minor), she thought studying law made the most sense. So, she applied and was accepted to Southern Methodist University School of Law, from which she graduated cum laude in 2014.
Now at Highland, she helps the company comply with federal regulations for the twenty-five mutual funds on its investment platform and facilitates reporting to the board of directors. In the five years she’s been with the company, she says, she’s been able to improve Highland’s efficiency, assist with its reorganization, and expand its business by helping launch new funds, including a suite of interval funds rolled out this year…
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