Frank Favia is Executive Vice President and General Counsel at Guaranteed Rate, one of the largest retail mortgage lenders in the United States. In his role, Frank serves as the company’s Chief Legal Officer and leads its legal department of more than 250 lawyers, compliance professionals, and staff. Previously, Frank was a member of the Litigation group in Sidley’s office in Chicago. Dave Gordon, the head of Sidley’s Litigation group in Chicago, recently sat down with Frank to catch up on his role’s many responsibilities, gratifying learning experiences throughout his career, and favorite Sidley memories.
Let’s start with a general sense of what you do day-to-day. What do you do in your typical day?
Every day is different. Guaranteed Rate is a very large organization, with more than 10,000 employees across our family of companies, operating in a highly regulated industry in all 50 states. Given the size and scope of our business, new issues come to my attention almost every day, ranging from corporate M&A, labor and employment, privacy and data security, litigation and regulatory and corporate governance to day-to-day compliance matters. Another significant part of my job involves identifying areas of need and then recruiting and managing our teams in those areas. I am very proud of the team we have built at Guaranteed Rate, which I believe is one of the best in our industry.
Can you share a couple of the most exciting projects that you’ve handled at Guaranteed Rate?
The company has nearly tripled in size since I joined, and within the last year we have closed two significant acquisitions and announced a new joint venture with one of the nation’s largest independent real estate brokerages. Each of those deals presented unique issues and challenges that our legal department had to analyze and address. Moreover, integrating the acquired companies after closing has been an exciting project that has required the time and attention of a large team both inside and outside of the legal and compliance departments.
You had spent your entire career at Sidley prior to joining Guaranteed Rate. Did you feel ready to move in-house, and how did working at Sidley prepare you to be a general counsel?
Put simply, Sidley made me the lawyer I am today. There is no substitute for working on some of the largest, most sophisticated matters in the country and learning from some of the best lawyers in their fields. I grew up at Sidley in what was then called the general litigation group, where I was fortunate to be able to work on a wide variety of matters and gain experience in many different areas. These included M&A disputes, class-action litigation, government and regulatory investigations, commercial contract disputes, employment disputes and many others. This exposure to different areas of the law was unquestionably helpful in preparing me for my current position.
Have there been any other big adjustments going from a law firm to an in-house position?
One thing that struck me was the speed at which the in-house world works. I no longer have the time to spend seven or eight hours drafting a large litigation brief or a deal document. With such a large volume of work, it is critical to have such a deep and talented legal and compliance team, which has enabled the success of our business and our department.
It sounds like you are having an outstanding experience at Guaranteed Rate. What’s been the most gratifying aspect of your new role?
On a daily basis, I get to work with really smart, fun people who are great at their jobs and with whom I genuinely enjoy spending time. Given the size and nature of our business, there is never a dull moment. But if I had to pick one thing, the expansion of skills and experience as a general counsel is what I have found most rewarding. The position requires that I do more than just act as a legal advisor–our board and executive team also expect me to be a strategic business advisor and partner. I love to learn, and these additional responsibilities have given me a reason to study and pursue executive education and business subjects that I have always been interested in, such as corporate finance, accounting and organizational leadership.
You were at Sidley for a long time before you went to Guaranteed Rate, and I am sure you have a lot of memories. Can you tell us about your favorite one?
I do have many great memories from the more than 14 years I spent at Sidley. I was fortunate to work with incredibly talented lawyers on many fun and challenging matters. The day I learned that I had made partner stands out as a particularly special memory. That was the culmination of many, many years of hard work, and the support and recognition I received from my Sidley colleagues that day and in the weeks, months and years that followed is something that I will never forget.
What piece of advice would you give to a lawyer at a large law firm who might want to be a general counsel someday?
You need to have a broad set of skills, and you need to pursue and learn different areas of the law. You also need the ability to interact with different personalities. The general counsel is tasked with resolving internal issues, managing risks across different business initiatives, and interacting with different types of executives and business partners. You really need to be somebody who can get along and work with many different types of people.
UPDATE: Frank is now a partner in Sidley’s Chicago office.
Published September 2021
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