NJCCA Profiles - Martin Carrara
1. Tell us a little bit about your personal background.
I was born and raised in Staten Island, NY, which was a great place to grow up because you had a nice mix of proximity to “the city” with a suburban feel. I currently live in Hillsborough, NJ with my wife, Christine, and our son, Rob.
I received my J.D. from Fordham University School of Law, and have a BS and an MBA from Wagner College. I am an instructor for the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) and various ISM affiliates, where I teach seminars on contract law and other topics related to the legal aspects of purchasing and supply management.
2. What was your first job?
My first job was working my way through school as an electrician. I worked for my cousin, who owns and operates an electrical contracting firm on Staten Island. I did commercial and residential wiring. I still love to work with tools in my spare time, and Christine wishes I would make more spare time for all of the items on her to-do list.
3. What motivated you to become a lawyer?
After graduating from college, I sold electrical supplies for a little over a year before becoming a purchasing manager for one of my customers, L.K. Comstock & Co., a large electrical contracting firm in New York. I then moved to NYNEX (now Verizon) as a purchasing manager and contracts team leader. I enjoyed negotiating and drafting contracts and loved working with the lawyers (I know what you are thinking!). I worked with some excellent business lawyers at NYNEX and learned a great deal from them. I went to law school evenings while working at NYNEX and, in my last year of law school, while working at Citibank.
4. Tell us about your in-house experience.
I am currently Senior Corporate Counsel at Wyeth, where I handle a wide variety of commercial transactions for the Wyeth Consumer Healthcare business. I joined Wyeth in January 2009 from Pfizer. My first in-house position was at Pharmacia, where I was the procurement and real estate counsel. I joined Pharmacia in 1998, and joined Pfizer when Pfizer acquired Pharmacia in 2003. With Pfizer, I continued to handle a diversified array of commercial transactions including contract manufacturing and supply agreements, plant acquisitions and divestitures, outsourcing, construction, software and technology, and a wide variety of procurement matters. I also worked on the sale of the Pfizer Consumer Healthcare business to J&J, handling all of the agreements and legal issues relating to the manufacturing and supply aspects of the deal.
5. What do you find most rewarding about your job.
As an in-house lawyer, you have the opportunity to really work closely with the clients and become part of the business. Our job is not to say “no, you can’t do that” but, rather, to guide the clients on how they can accomplish their business objectives while managing risk to appropriate and acceptable levels. It is a delicate balance of advancing the business while protecting the company, and I think that my previous business experience really helps me to understand and appreciate the business needs. I enjoy being a trusted advisor who clients view as part of the team.
6. Tell us about your position at NJCCA?
I have been on the board of directors for several years, and recently became an officer as Vice President and Secretary and a member of the Executive Committee. I am also the chair of the Commercial Law Committee.
7. What do you find most rewarding about your association with NJCCA?
Without a doubt, the most rewarding aspect is the opportunity to work with and to get to know such great people, from the officers to the directors, committee leaders and committee members, our Executive Director, program presenters and organizers, our sponsors and everyone who supports NJCCA and attends our programs. These people have busy jobs and families, but they make time to help advance the professionalism and recognition of the in-house bar. Networking isn’t just (or mainly) about job-hunting; it’s about getting to know some great people who do what you do and can share their experiences. I encourage people to get involved in the organization – just come to a program or volunteer to work on a committee. You will be very happy that you did.
8. What do you like to do in your spare time?
Spare time? Actually, in addition to work and NJCCA, I am active in the Knights of Columbus in Raritan, NJ. We help to organize and run fundraisers to help the parish and the needy in the community, and it is a great way to give something back to the community. I try to spend what little spare time is left with my family.
9. Who would you most like to have dinner with?
Family dinners were an important part of growing up in my family, and I wish I could have one more of those great family dinners including my dad, who passed away four years ago. Outside of family, I would like to have dinner with Bill Bennett and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. From history, I wish I could have dinner with some of our founding fathers, especially men like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington and John Adams. I am amazed at what these men accomplished – at grave personal risk - in creating this great country, and I fear that we are letting it slip away today.
10. What advice do you have for young lawyers new to in-house or interested in moving in-house?
In addition to getting to understand your client’s business, the key thing you need to do is to constantly improve and expand your skills and knowledge. Two of the best ways to do that is through networking with your colleagues at NJCCA and by attending NJCCA CLE programs.