Matt Rossetti on changing the narrative at adidas Canada to present legal as a business enabler

'We like to say at adidas that we aim to enable and protect,' says Rossetti
Matt Rossetti on changing the narrative at adidas Canada to present legal as a business enabler

After starting his legal career at Goodmans LLP, Matt Rossetti knew early on that he wanted to transition to an in-house role where he could be more deeply involved in the business throughout the entire lifecycle of each legal matter rather than moving from client to client. He also wanted to be seen as a business consultant and a legal expert.

“Lawyers often have good judgement, rational thought, and a clear way of communicating, so the business often wants to get your view on something that may not be a strictly legal question,” he says.

After six years with Goodmans, where he developed his skills in employment and labour law as well as corporate law, Rossetti applied for a position at adidas Canada through LinkedIn, and the rest is history. He joined as the first lawyer in the Woodbridge, Ont.-based Canadian office of the company five years ago, establishing the legal function from scratch, which involved building up trust from all departments.

“Being the first lawyer in the building, there was some skepticism from the business because they weren’t sure what to expect, and legal is often seen as the department of ‘no’” he says. “Along with my global adidas colleagues, I’m trying to change that narrative and make sure we communicate to the business that legal is your friend. We like to say at adidas that we aim to enable and protect. Every business decision has some risk associated with it, and our job is to evaluate the risks, communicate the risk and ensure that we’re legally compliant.”

As a director and legal counsel at adidas Canada, Rossetti is responsible for all legal and compliance matters in the Canadian market, covering a wide range of issues. His broad scope includes everything from endorsements and sponsorships agreements to employment and labour matters, as well as commercial sales and distribution agreements. He navigates sports marketing, privacy, litigation, legal tech, and insolvency and restructuring matters.

Rossetti has developed a strong rapport with the business over the past five years as the sole lawyer in the Canadian office, so he has earned a reputation as someone who can help the business move things along quickly while protecting the bottom line of the sportswear giant. He is also a member of the North American team, working closely with a team of 25 lawyers and legal professionals, the rest of whom are based in Portland, US. The team meets weekly, so Rossetti can lean on his colleagues for a second opinion when needed.

Top of mind for Rossetti in 2024 is the use of use of technology and AI and how they affect the practice of law – both in-house and in private practice. As a one-person team, Rossetti is keen to implement new legal technologies – whether it be contract lifestyle management technology or AI technology, or contract automation – into the legal group at adidas, both locally and globally.

“Depending on what type of lawyer you speak to, AI is either a brilliant, exciting opportunity or the beginning of the end for lawyers,” says Rossetti. “I tend to be more optimistic and think it’s a tool that’s going to enable us to do our jobs better and more efficiently and automate some of the low-hanging fruit that lawyers don’t like to do, so it will allow us to save our time for more strategic, more analytical and more thoughtful work.”