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2020 In-House Counsel Awards: Jenny Herner

Private company with more than $500 million in annual revenue

Assistant Vice President & Assistant General Counsel, MiTek

Jenny HernerAttorney. Marathon runner. Ready for any challenge. Once ran through 2 feet of water for 3 miles in Venice, Italy.

“When I hit that stretch of water to my knees, I wasn’t about to quit,” said Jenny Herner. “I just powered through.”

Those qualities have served Herner well as in-house counsel for MiTek. Since joining the Berkshire Hathaway-owned, global building solutions provider in January 2020, she has added COVID-19 compliance to her list of specialties.

She is responsible for MiTek’s global COVID-19 compliance at 116 locations in 22 countries. This year, she worked her first-ever 100-hour week.

Herner’s legal career began after she earned her journalism degree from the University of Missouri. Drawn to pursue international business, law and foreign policy, she entered law school at Georgetown University.

As many legal career paths do, Herner’s path veered into litigation when she interviewed with Thompson Coburn. During her seven years with the firm, she litigated a variety of banking and government contract cases. She also handled corporate transactions, including trademark applications and intellectual property rights.

One of her favorite moments as an attorney came during a deposition. Her client was being sued by a large global corporation in a patent-litigation case. While deposing the CFO of the corporation, she coped with his condescension by asking him several times to “help me understand this,” she said.

“He dropped his guard, and I was able to lead him down the path I wanted,” Herner recalled. “When we finished the deposition, he looked at me like he was amazed I had a brain. Sometimes being underestimated is a great advantage.”

Herner’s transition into the area of in-house corporate law came at the invitation of a friend who was with Angelica Corporation. She became one of the two attorneys in the company’s legal department and handled a variety of responsibilities, including lobbying and immigration matters.

“As in-house counsel, you have a unique viewpoint,” Herner said. “You have the opportunity to see the whole business.”

Later she joined Arch Coal Inc., where for 11 years she navigated its legal landscape — first as assistant general counsel and then as vice president of contracts and compliance. Ultimately, she led a team of nine in the contract administration and revenue management departments.

She credits the book, “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You” by John Maxwell, as the turning point for her as a leader.

“The 12th law, the law of empowerment, comes against micromanaging,” Herner said. “I realized I was guilty of that. I called my team into a meeting, apologized to them and promised not to do it again. I learned that I could learn leadership.”

After giving up micromanaging, Herner discovered she had more time to pursue activities she enjoys. A music lover, she plays guitar and piano, and she also traveled to music festivals before the COVID-19 pandemic. She and her running group have set the goal of doing a half-marathon in each of the 50 U.S. states. She also has run three marathons in Europe.

Hopefully, running through deep water is in her past. If it does come again, she knows she can handle it.