Rethinkers
Redefining business as usual.
Carrie Dwyer
General Counsel, Schwab

Carrie Dwyer is no stranger to complexity. Fifteen years ago, she took over management of the legal function of one of the nation’s largest financial service firms—$1.4 trillion in client assets in 2010. It would seem that merely keeping up could be an all-consuming job. But as General Counsel of Charles Schwab, Carrie has managed to do much more than keep up—she has continued to innovate and evolve the department, helping the company continue to barrel forward.

As a heavily regulated business, Charles Schwab manages countless regulatory touch points. Carrie relies on her team to work independently in high profile advisory roles that often have implications that are material to the business as a whole. Most of the roles require proactivity, good judgment and breadth. When the structure of the department she inherited – teams siloed by practice area – proved to inhibit the characteristics she and the business needed, she reorganized into two divisions and set up structures and incentives to facilitate cross-functional teams. The result has been a more interesting and innovative practice for Schwab’s lawyers and improved performance for the business. 

“When the silos between business groups are broken down, it provides greater cross-training and a broader context for issue recognition. The structure consistently makes the lawyers more effective.”

Then she took a similar approach to outside counsel management, moving away from reliance on large firms and toward a tailored array of providers that emphasizes the lawyer, not the firm. Carrie recognizes there will always be a place for big law firms, but she carefully “slices & dices” her business to choose the best quality/cost/value model for each matter – and actively monitors the results.

15 years into the role, Carrie sits atop a unique department, with a unique structure and a unique set of outside providers. “But it’s working, and it’s never dull!”