Litigation is constant in today’s business environment. The question seems to be not whether a company will be sued, but when. However, Blaine Edwards ’83 told Business Honors students that companies are often able to avoid the hassle and costs of lawsuits. “You can deal with issues and problems before they turn into litigation,” he said. “I try to spot issues and help the company up front.”
Edwards is assistant general counsel for global litigation at Houston-based Superior Energy Services, Inc., an international oil and gas company. In this role, he is responsible for supervising the group of attorneys and paralegals at Superior Energy that handles major job problems, accident investigations and litigation in the United States and around the world.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance from Texas A&M University and a J.D. from St. Mary’s University School of Law. Prior to joining Superior Energy, Edwards served as associate general counsel at BJ Services Company. He also has more than 17 years of experience as a trial lawyer and three years of experience as a bank officer.
Edwards described himself as a “fixer,” saying he spends most of his time advising company leaders how to identify what is happening in the business and what they need to do to avoid problems and litigation. “You don’t want to be in the litigation business,” he said. “It’s expensive, time-consuming and risky.”
He described three major types of risks facing companies, all of which can lead to class action lawsuits: policy, procedure and people risks.
To prevent lawsuits from arising from workplace accidents, Edwards said companies must make sure their employees are fit for duty. “What employees do can affect you, your company and the company’s stock price,” he said. A major part of Edwards’ job is working to prevent future incidents. “It’s important for me to take the lessons learned and be fervent in educating people about accidents to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he said.
Even when a company does cause an accident, Edwards said an apology can often go a long way. “”I’m sorry” are often the two best words you can say,” he said. “Take responsibility by saying you’re sorry and putting it right.” Taking the initiative to resolve problems quickly and personally often allows companies to meet the needs of those affected by accidents without ever going to court.
Edwards left the students with three pieces of advice for their professional careers:
- Learn how to spot issues in your area
- Come up with solutions to these issues
- Look for risks for what you do and try to find a way to minimize them
“To be effective, you’ve got to be able to tell how big a problem is,” he said. Edwards said he often just practices common sense. “If something doesn’t seem fair, it’s probably not right.”
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Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,600 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.
Categories: Executive Speakers