Never a Dull Moment

Breaking down a typical workday with ALDO's general counsel

Catherine Ross, general counsel.
Catherine Ross, general counsel.

5:45 a.m.
My internal clock goes off five minutes before my alarm. There is no time to snooze; I get up to greet a brand-new day. I plea guilty, as the first thing I do when I wake up is check my e-mails to make sure that the world did not come to a halt while I was asleep. Seriously, with operations all around the world, a lot can happen between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

6:00 a.m.
Between 6:00 and 6:20, I spend “quality time” with Pippa, the family cat. She loves watching me prepare breakfast for my children, always hoping for a little taste of milk. I am also charged with the task of making sure both children have what they need for the day. Neatly laid out are their school bags, jackets, and lunches so that the morning trip to school goes off without a hitch.

6:20 a.m.
I wake Thomas (14) and Mathilde (10) up. It is always easier with my 10-year-old because, like me, she is a morning person. We spend breakfast together, after which my husband “takes over” while I finish preparing myself.

7:30 a.m.
I would love to say that next I go to my morning yoga class or head out for my daily 10-kilometre run; however, that is not the case. I normally continue checking e-mails and responding to the most urgent ones until I leave for the office around 7:40. I generally arrive at work around 8:00, ready to take on whatever comes my way.

9:30 a.m.
It is incredible how much I can accomplish between 8:00 and 9:30. People always ask me how I keep track of everything, but my contract-management online tool is my little secret; I could not survive without it. I also use that time in the morning to work on my agreements before my day is consumed by meetings and last-minute requests.

10:00 a.m.
I meet with the president for my bimonthly status meeting. I use this time to review the progress I have made on various projects and discuss any new issues that may have arisen over the past weeks.

11:00 a.m.
I am finalizing the last details of our agreement with a new franchise partner in Europe, so I meet with the business team to review pending items and prepare for a conference call scheduled for the following day. It is always very exciting to open in a new country, and I am fortunate enough to be involved in making it happen.

12:00 p.m.
I catch up with my colleagues over lunch. We talk about our files, but we also share the latest stories about our children and our plans for the weekend.

12:45 p.m.
I am now back at my desk and catching up on missed e-mails from lunch. I respond to the most urgent ones before my 1:00 meeting with the director of IT. We have to go over the latest version of a contract we are negotiating. Several issues need to be reviewed and discussed and, as always, we have to be creative to find win-win solutions. This file is challenging, but my client is satisfied, we are progressing well, and we should be able to close the contract by the end of the week.

2:00 p.m.
It is time to sit with my junior lawyer for our weekly meeting to discuss the different issues or questions she has and plan what her priorities should be over the next days.

3:00 p.m.
My meeting is over and my inbox is not getting any lighter; in fact, in addition to the many work-related e-mails, I see that my daughter has been invited to two birthday parties next weekend. I take a mental note and decide that a visit to the shopping mall after work will be necessary in order to find cool gifts for her friends.

3:15 p.m.
That process is immediately interrupted by a knock on the office door by one of our buyers who wants to review some styles for the next season. It’s always interesting to mix legal and creativity—it’s like a breath of fresh air—but then it is back to the pile of contracts sitting on my desk.

3:30 p.m.
I receive an emergency call from our president. He needs to speak right away about an issue we have with a supplier and needs to know our rights under the agreement. I have 10 minutes to retrieve the document (signed years ago), review it, and propose the best course of action. Did I mention that there is never a dull moment?

4:00 p.m.
I am running late for my conference call with our insurance broker and the vice president of finance to discuss the renewal and scope of our insurance policies.

5:00 p.m.
It’s already time to call it a day—at least from work. The next three hours will really put my ability to multitask to the test. With my husband, we will prepare a family dinner and help the children with their homework, class projects, and all other intendancy matters.

8:00 p.m.
It is now time to tuck my daughter into bed, and when time allows for it, we will read together. For me, it provides a moment of relaxation before I start what I call my “second shift.”

8:30 p.m.
I often spend an hour or so with my son to help him review for his next exam or simply to catch up.

9:30 p.m.
I am now back to work, skimming my e-mails, reviewing a handful of NDAs, and providing feedback to parties requesting changes. I also use this time to respond to various parts of our organization, including international, marketing, IT, and e-commerce. When you think about it, I have a pretty exciting job. There are few roles that allow you to work with so many functional areas of a business on a daily basis.

10:30 p.m.
I have 30 minutes before bedtime, and I do not have to contemplate how to spend it: I finish the most recent episode of Homeland with my husband. I just can’t help it—I love that show.

11:00 p.m.
It is finally time to turn in my briefcase for some much-deserved sleep. Tomorrow will come quickly, and although I have much of it planned, there are always surprises lurking at every turn.