When thinking about a company’s in-house legal department, many executives imagine a team of lawyers advising them of the many things they cannot or should not do. But Andre Beaulieu, senior vice president and chief legal officer at the British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA), a venerable organization that serves one in three households in the province, says he has a different vision for his department.
Prior to his arrival, the company had relied upon external lawyers. “This is expensive and risk was compounded in that the services provided were segmented with no broad view,” Beaulieu says. “The firms, understandably, were offering transactional service based on immediate needs without necessarily understanding the big picture.” “From day one this was an opportunity to be at the executive table, protecting the reputation and assets of a membership organization known as one of British Columbia’s most trusted companies,” Beaulieu says. “And I tell everyone who works on my legal team, ‘You want to be a facilitator here. You don’t want to be a bottleneck or a roadblock.’ That’s especially true when you’re talking about building a new department from the ground up.”
“This was an opportunity to be at the executive table, protecting the reputation and assets of a membership organization known as one of British Columbia’s most trusted companies.”
Beaulieu then set about creating the most effective legal team he could. One of the ways he did so was by facilitating effective communication. “The reputation I want of our legal department is trusted and available,” Beaulieu says. “Where people are encouraged to visit while at once never feeling that they are having to seek you out. Our legal team should actively seek out ways to add value as early as possible. To that end, I hire for enthusiasm and curiosity as much as for talent—it is hard to coach enthusiasm! It also means establishing a culture that is business focused and forward looking. I expect BCAA legal to be proactive rather than reactive. Waiting for the phone to ring or for a file to drop onto your desk is the antithesis of adding value.”
Beaulieu’s love of law comes from his father, a former Supreme Court justice
One way that BCAA is looking to add to its clients’ value is with a new car-sharing program in Vancouver. “BCAA identified that there was a large group—of millennials especially but across all age categories—in the urban centre of Vancouver that don’t want to own a car,” Beaulieu says. “They have a driver’s license but they are served by traditional transit systems, taxis, or getting rides with friends. So car sharing is an evolving industry.”Beaulieu maintains a focus on creating a great workplace culture. He also looks at continually monitoring the needs of the organization.” I regularly survey our internal client groups to find out what we can do better and where our challenges are with respect to meeting the service needs of our organization,” Beaulieu says. “After years of being known for roadside assistance, we are evolving our brand to focus on the many ways that a BCAA membership is rewarding—from rewards, savings, and partnerships to launching and steering new business ventures.” Beaulieu and his team continue to identify areas where they can become an integral part of the leadership team and add value.
Driving BCAA Forward
These recent projects are ensuring that British Columbians’ evolving needs are always met
- Andre Beaulieu has enthusiastically supported BCAA’s development of the new Evo urban car-sharing program in Vancouver.
- BCAA has commenced an initiative to create state-of-the-art branded auto-service centres. This helps connect the BCAA brand with cars and driving.
- Beaulieu has also worked with BCAA’s CEO to create 100-day, 6-month, and 12-month strategic legal plans with a view to aligning legal and other risks with strategic business opportunities.
In addition to filling customers’ needs, Beaulieu is excited to see BCAA continue to incorporate brand recognition into its new initiatives. “We looked at car repair facilities and, as one of British Columbia’s most-trusted and most-loved brands, we recognized that in opening up auto-service repair facilities within British Columbia, we could offer a full-service repair facility that was branded in our name,” Beaulieu says.
Beyond looking to the future for BCAA’s customers, Beaulieu has also worked to make sure his team stays current. “Our CEO has a vision to evolve a beloved auto club into an ever-relevant organization set up for future growth,” Beaulieu says. “Moving the legal department into the 21st century so it isn’t simply a paper mill but actually uses technology to provide BCAA with online resources. We have moved training, contract creation and review, templates, document retention, and external counsel management online.
“Our new product launches as well as our existing service offerings are all evolving and each requires attention,” Beaulieu says. “If there aren’t enough hours in the day to deal with everything we may want to do, that is great because that’s what energizes and drives my team. I was leading an executive panel at BCAA’s leadership forum in front of our entire management group. We were in the midst of discussing the broad scope of our product offerings, our world-class service levels, and the movement of BCAA into exciting new directions while maintaining the core values of trust within a beloved brand and I knew I was in the right role.”