When Silicon Valley-based software development company Informatica planned to go private and was subsequently acquired by private equity firms Permira and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board in 2015, Katherine “Kiki” Haar saw it as a major opportunity.
“What I loved about Informatica becoming a private company was the chance to take a step back and look at how to modernize our legal function,” Haar recalls. Having been promoted to general counsel immediately following the acquisition after working for five years as an in-house corporate attorney at Informatica, Haar saw great potential for ways to restructure the legal department to benefit the company’s larger goals, particularly as Informatica began a major shift to operating on a subscription-based model.
Haar had refined her skills in merging big-picture business goals with legal work over the course of her career. Before joining Informatica, she spent nine years as an associate at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati (WSGR), where she worked on M&A transactions for tech companies. After working as a summer associate for WSGR, Haar officially joined the firm at the end of the tech boom in 2000—shortly before the bubble burst—and learned to take advantage of new opportunities during times of transformation.
In 2006, Informatica became one of Haar’s closest clients at WSGR. While she built strong relationships with the company’s leadership, she saw Informatica’s potential in enterprise cloud data management. When the then general counsel approached her about joining the company as a corporate specialist, Haar saw it as a natural fit. “All lawyers are risk averse to some extent, but I saw Informatica as having limitless options,” says Informatica’s senior vice president, general counsel, and chief privacy officer. “You rarely have the chance to transition to in-house with a company you’ve already worked with—with people you know and respect.”
On top of revamping the legal department of Informatica, Katherine Haar is a voracious reader. Some of her old and recent favorites are:
- The Song of the Dodo by David Quammen: “It’s one of my favorite books about island biogeography and extinction patterns. It’s beautifully told scientific journalism.”
- Seveneves by Neal Stephenson: “Seveneves is set in space, and what I love about it is that instead of just skipping to the dystopian future it explains how we get there. It’s a space disaster that develops into a dystopian future.”
- Bruno, Chief of Police series by Martin Walker: “I love mystery series set in foreign jurisdictions. I also love the Inspector Gamache books by Louise Penny and the Guido Brunetti books by Donna Leon.”
- Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: “Set in a post-apocalyptic world, it’s about not losing touch with the arts and humanity.”
- Madeleine L’Engle collection: “I reread these all the time, and I’m always struck by how intelligent they are.”
Upon joining Informatica, Haar began by working to maximize the potential of the company’s corporate functions, focusing on corporate securities, M&A transactions, and SEC filings. From there, Haar began looking into adjacent opportunities, which ranged from executive compensation to privacy. By the time the company decided to go private, she’d expanded her responsibilities to an extent that, after managing the acquisition over several months, she was able to work across various sides of the business to be well-positioned to lead the legal team.
Then, after becoming general counsel, one of Haar’s earliest initiatives was to bring in specialists. “With many companies, particularly tech companies, there’s a tendency to start off hiring generalists,” Haar says. “Over time, with software companies, you bring in IP licensing professionals because that’s your business.” She started looking at the organization and began hiring where she saw gaps, starting with an employment lawyer and a dedicated product counsel, as well as other specialists who had the technical expertise needed to target relevant areas.
Haar also started observing ways to streamline the legal department’s work, particularly by implementing technology solutions to speed up processes and finding ways to automate tasks that were previously done manually. She began by implementing a legal entity management solution and went on to formalize other practices, starting with compliance programs.
While implementing technology solutions, Haar also began researching key performance indicators to measure and manage various aspects of the legal function, such as how fees for outside counsel could be better managed. Additionally, she focused on ways that the legal department could help accelerate the transformation that Informatica was undergoing as it moved to a subscription-based model. In fact, in her first six months as general counsel, Haar had to make it a priority to focus on ways the legal department could manage increases in transaction volumes and put thresholds in place for contract negotiations.
To accomplish all of this, Haar increased communication and collaboration within her team. “Previously, it was very siloed, even within the legal team,” Haar says. “I’m a big believer in one-on-ones with your staff and your direct reports. I try to build personal connections because I think that empathy is a really important aspect to being a leader.” In addition to advocating for cross-functional working teams, instituting staff meetings, and global team meetings, Haar also worked on more personal relationship building, including a text-message chain where team members can share pictures of their families and their pets.
Having grown in her own career through mentorship and opportunities to increase her responsibilities, Haar encourages her team to take the lead and become primary points of contact for business units they support. “I’m only as good as they are, so their success is personal to me,” Haar says. “If you give people the option to be responsible and accountable, then they will step up, and it will benefit the entire team.”
Haar also keeps a close eye on future opportunities for the company and industry to evolve. One major area of focus for her team going forward is data protection and the potential of the new general data protection regulation coming out from the EU in May 2018. “That represents a significant opportunity not only for our own compliance, but also for customers and the products and services we offer,” Haar says. “Data is so foundational for organizations now. When you see that, and the fact that the market is so huge for what we can do, you see limitless possibility in areas we can go with our solutions.”
As Informatica continues to evolve, Haar is confident that she has a strong, focused, and collaborative legal team to help support those new areas of growth. “One of the most valuable lessons I learned early in my career was not to get in the way of the business,” Haar says. “We’re here to accelerate that business, and we’re doing just that.”
With more than nine hundred lawyers around the world, Seyfarth Shaw offers its clients a truly global expertise. It is our privilege to work with Kiki Haar and her colleagues at Informatica.
At Reed Smith, we believe that the practice of law has the ability to drive progress. When working with clients like Informatica we are focused on outcomes and our long-term client relationship. We have deep industry insight that allows us to anticipate and address their needs. We strive to provide purposeful, highly engaged client service that drives progress for all our clients.
Reed Smith is a global law firm with more than 1,700 lawyers in twenty-seven offices throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. We represent leading international businesses, from Fortune 100 corporations to mid-market and emerging enterprises.
Photo: Scott R. Kline