Cross-continental counsel: Navistar Canada's GC Robert Soccio on what made his in-house career

Private practice experience was invaluable for current role with the commercial vehicle manufacturer
Cross-continental counsel: Navistar Canada's GC Robert Soccio on what made his in-house career

For Robert Soccio, it was his unique blend of private practice experience, specializing in corporate securities, finance and M&A transactions, and private and public corporate experiences, dealing with corporate commercial, regulatory, tax & finance, IP, data security, governance, compliance, labour & employment, litigation and strategic projects, that ultimately led him to his current role. As the Canadian general counsel, also with the global distribution mandate, at commercial vehicle manufacturer Navistar Canada, Soccio tells Lexpert that he draws on the relevance of these skills and experiences daily.

“My time in private practice has been truly invaluable and incredibly helpful in shaping my career and making me the lawyer I am today. It afforded me a deep understanding of the various legal landscapes and complexities involving various corporate securities, finance, and M&A matters in different legal jurisdictions. It has also assisted me in developing strong analytical skills [as well as] problem-solving abilities, which are essential for navigating complex legal issues that may arise in any organization and any industry; all of which, including obtaining a New York State law license, in addition to my Ontario one of course, was made possible from my private practice experience.”

And Soccio’s experiences in this private practice were far from uniform. His journey as a private practitioner extended across continents, from the bustling business hubs of Canada to the competitive markets of the United States and around the world. His journey provided him with a panoramic view of global legal dynamics, enriching his perspective on the intricacies of the legal landscape.

“Those experiences have given me invaluable insight into the diverse and nuanced legal, regulatory, compliance requirements in my day-to-day work, as well as the array of best practices demanded by corporate securities, finance and commercial law,” he says. “Most importantly, my private practice experience allowed me to refine my interpersonal and communication skills, which are indispensable in any corporate situation. Effective communication with both internal and external stakeholders is paramount.”

Throughout his career, Soccio’s taken an approach to risk management – something that he believes is his main differentiator.

“It really underscores the importance of proactive and strategic legal risk identification, transparent communication, collaboration and gaining commitment throughout the organization for continuous improvement in effectively managing compliance programs and policies. Whether in mining and metals, heavy industry manufacturing, engineering, oil & gas, or automotive, each of those sectors presents its unique business environment. However, given my legal experience, I’ve found significant transferability of skills and expertise across various industries, tailoring such skills appropriately.”

The transition from private practice lawyer addressing legal issues in a client-lawyer setting, to in-house corporate legal management required adapting and applying his expertise and skills in creative and novel ways. The legal complexities of each industry he navigated, from mining and metals, heavy industry, engineering, oil & gas, automotive, and manufacturing, to distribution, logistics and supply chain management, provided a solid foundation. Yet, the corporate world demanded a broader perspective.

“First and foremost, strategic alignment is essential, ensuring the legal team’s goals and objectives are synchronized with the overall mission, mandates, and business priorities of the organization. The value and effectiveness of an in-house legal department hinges on its close strategic alignment with and support of the business. Achieving this level of alignment requires a deep understanding of the company's business, industry dynamics and regulatory landscape that the in-house group must strive to support to be effectively valuable contributors to the organization.”

And Soccio is particularly enthusiastic about the potential of legal technology to revolutionize the operations of legal departments within the broader organizational framework.  However, as he tells Lexpert, the adoption of any new legal tool requires considerable time, effort, and thorough research before selection and implementation.

“There are numerous new legal technology solutions available to in-house departments,” he explains. “These include automated tools, data analytics, streamlined processes and document management systems, all designed to optimize resource allocation and deployment. Having said that, adopting these technological solutions requires a significant investment of time and effort to understand their use, value, and functionality fully. It’s not just a matter of selecting software products; rather, it necessitates a very deliberate and methodical approach to implement effectively and efficiently all to further strategically align with and proactively support the business priorities of the organization.”