How Legal Helps the Sell

Business attorneys do more than write and negotiate sound contracts. Damon Schramm is guiding home shopping company Evine Live to revitalize its business with smart counsel and a can-do attitude.

Damon Schramm admits that the first time he watched the home shopping television network—a sector he would eventually go to work for—it was a painful experience. The accomplished attorney with additional business training says the show’s product line of mostly jewelry and watches just wasn’t his forte.

Still, he took the position and is now the senior vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary for Evine Live Inc., an established player in the television-based digital retailing industry segment. He’s enthusiastic about the job, and he likes to visit the studios and headquarters in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. “I’m impressed by our merchant and broadcast teams and on-air hosts and how they get products into the hands of consumers,” he says, remarking how it is a strategic, data-driven, and well-managed production.

It bears noting that the Evine product line has been extended to home goods, electronics, beauty, fitness, and apparel products—much like the broadening of Schramm’s impression of the home shopping industry.

This was not the first time, though, that Schramm found his career going in an unexpected direction. And in each shift, he managed to adopt a passion for what his responsibilities entail and the business he supports. It’s also worthwhile to note: these responsibilities have included televised poker games, teaching business to design students, venture capital in the Czech Republic, and practicing business law in support of entrepreneurial, emerging, and growing companies.

He also cites his own father as his inspiration throughout. “He was an educator, a principal, and nationally recognized,” Schramm says. He also acknowledges his father for instilling in him traits that include fairness and morality, drawn from the family’s faith-based traditions.

As a result, it might surprise many that none other than Arnie Becker, the sometimes slippery divorce attorney and protagonist in the 1980s TV show L.A. Law, gave Schramm his first thoughts of becoming an attorney. “I had no altruistic reasons for deciding to go into law when I was in high school,” he admits. But when he got into law school, he was particularly taken with the passion for law that one of his professors, a criminal defense lawyer, had. “He really believed in what he was doing,” Schramm says. “He told me that the things that ultimately matter most are honesty and loyalty.”

While his legal education ultimately took him on a path to business transactional work, he says those principles—honesty and loyalty—still apply. “When you are looking for potential partners, it’s natural to ask, ‘Are they honest and loyal?’” he says.

Schramm also thrives on change, as well as on whatever he finds to be interesting and intellectually challenging. This draws him to entrepreneurial and growing ventures, the kind of enterprise that means discovering and sometimes inventing new ways for  accomplishing tasks.

He describes one such situation from his previous work for the gaming business Lakes Entertainment, Inc., of Minnetonka, Minnesota. The task was to arrange financing in a high-yield offering for a casino property. “We had to address Securities and Exchange Commission issues, federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act questions, and local and state tribal regulations,” he says, noting that the property in question was on a Native American reservation. He says that with about a half dozen each of investment bankers and lawyers involved in the deal, they had reached an impasse. “We huddled late at night with our legal team and managed to reach an aha moment. The great thing was the problem was interesting, and we had many bright people working on it. We found a way through it and were able to sell the bonds,” Schramm explains.

The casino operator went through a merger in 2015 that required moving corporate functions to Las Vegas. However, Schramm wasn’t interested in leaving the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. So when an opportunity to interview with the Minnesota-based Evine surfaced, he was certainly interested. Both companies had television properties, and Evine was undergoing its own reorganization. The company’s law department also had a reputation for being more of a roadblock than a support—and when hired, Schramm accepted the responsibility for changing that.

Within six months of starting with Evine, he was elevated to the general counsel position. It was a time of rebuilding at the company, and Evine aimed at countering a sales slide as it ranked behind two other competing home shopping companies. “Our first tasks in the law department were to recognize quality issues and inefficiencies and repair internal relationships,” he says. But was he worried about joining a flailing organization? “I believed in the new management and executive team.”

The company was due for some changes, given the fact that it has been in operation since 1992. With an evolving product line and new senior management, Evine has adopted policies of greater transparency and cross-functional operations. Schramm redesigned the legal department to realign and integrate his staff attorneys to be business partners with operating departments, to use organizational technology to greater effectiveness, and to provide business solutions.

“We are part of the corporate development team,” he says. “We look at new opportunities for the company in terms of new products and company acquisitions. We look at things from both a business and legal point of view. I tell my staff to be the partner who helps accelerate the business.”

This includes the negotiations needed for evolving interpretations of Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission laws. While decades old, they’re hardly static, requiring lawyers like Schramm to stay current on how they affect business. “People rarely say, ‘I want to go into telecom law,’” says Schramm, who clearly enjoys it as much as everything else.

And why not? Schramm knows how to take on a variety of new challenges. It’s the lifeblood of what keeps him interested in being a business lawyer.