Juncu has been with Mondelez since 2018, when she joined it on secondment from Stratula & Asociatiii. In April 2019, she took on her current role.
CEELM: Can you give us a brief overview of your career?
Madalina: I have dreamed of being a lawyer since my early school years. At that time, I didn’t know much about the diverse options and opportunities that the legal profession offers.
I graduated from one of the best law universities in the country, UAIC Iasi [the Alexandru Ioan Cuza University], where I had the chance to be guided by great professors who helped me understand the legal world. Also, I was President of the local branch of the European Law Students’ Association, and my college years were dedicated to legal volunteering. I think this was an important part of my development, on both a personal and professional level.
Thereupon, I pursued a Master’s degree in Law from the University of Bucharest. I was admitted to the Bucharest Bar in 2016 and joined the Stratula & Asociatii law firm. In March 2018 I joined Mondelez Romania as a secondee from the firm. When my secondment ended in April 2019, I decided to stay with the company.
CEELM: Were you always keen on moving in-house, or was there something in particular about Mondelez that drew you in?
Madalina: I started at Mondelez more than two years ago, while I was still a junior lawyer, so my path in the legal field was still undefined and my position at the company was a temporary assignment for one year. When I started, I was keen to return to my law firm and become a litigation lawyer. However, as it often happens in life, things changed along the way.
The time I spent on secondment at Mondelez enriched my business acumen and added great value to my professional development. Also, one of my colleagues from the firm had been on a similar assignment a few years back and she always remembered the experience as challenging but amazing.
Thus, from my first months as a lawyer, I was open to the idea that at one point I might get the chance to see what it means to be in-house, specifically with Mondelez. I admired the company and the values they promoted, their wide range portfolio of tasty products, and their consumer-focused approach, even before working for them. Therefore, it was a perfect match at the perfect time when I joined Mondelez in March 2018.
CEELM: What are the main differences between working as an external lawyer and in-house?
Madalina: During my internship, I worked mainly as a consultancy lawyer, with little direct experience with litigation, and I was lucky enough to have great mentors, so the transition was not that difficult.
As an external lawyer you have several clients with different business models, areas of activity, and specific requests. As an in-house counsel, the business, represented by colleagues from every department, is your client.
First, I needed to translate my legalese to a common language, to be understood by every professional regardless of their area of specialization, and to give short, on-point answers. Also, you need to have a holistic view of each matter and to assess how each step will influence the way the entire company functions. Another learning process was balancing business interests in compliance with the legal provisions where the law is ambiguous.
CEELM: How do you think working in both worlds has shaped the way you work with external counsel?
Madalina: I think it helped me see both sides of the coin with their advantages, disadvantages, and challenges.
I know how external lawyers perceive their clients’ matters and what they aim to provide and I can easily translate the legal language to a business language, and to apply the legal advice in practice. Most importantly, working in both worlds has helped me evolve as a contact point/mediator between external lawyers and business people so I can easily assess how and what to ask from our external counsels.
CEELM: While we are on the subject, what are the main considerations you take into account when selecting outside counsel for a new project?
Madalina: I think it’s having a good reputation and image on the market combined with diverse areas of legal expertise and specialized departments/lawyers.
CEELM: You are the sole member of the in-house legal team in Romania. What does a regular day in the office look like for you?
Madalina: I must mention that we have a great legal team. It is not local; it is at the Central European regional level, with colleagues based in different countries.
Usually, prior to COVID-19, I would arrive at the office, have a coffee with my colleagues, check my emails, make my to-do list for the day, and check my calendar to see what meetings I had. This, of course, if we’re speaking of a regular day. There are many days with special situations, ad-hoc urgent meetings or calls and visits from authorities, and in those moments there is no schedule, only fast thinking and fast acting.
My time is mostly divided between sales and distribution matters, and all aspects related to marketing (promotions, marketing materials) and consumer protection (product compliance in general, labeling, etc.).
During the current COVID-19 crisis, since I work from home, my day also includes a cat over the laptop in the most important calls. He even types on my behalf sometimes.
CEELM: From a legal/regulatory stand-point, what would you identify as the main ongoing challenges you dealing with, and how are you tackling them?
Madalina: One of the main challenges at the moment is the update Romania’s Law 321/2009 regarding the trading of food products. For years now, there has been a prohibition on retailers invoicing suppliers for various sales and marketing services related to their products. Now things have changed but there are still several ambiguities as to what can and cannot be done to promote suppliers’ products against a fee and the entire market is trying to adapt and re-implement such services. We do hope some norms of implementation will follow.
On the other side, it will be interesting to see how Directive (EU) 2019/633 on unfair trading practices in business-to-business relationships in the agricultural and food supply chain will be implemented.
Other than that, labeling is always a challenge as the same product can be distributed in several markets and national legislation is constantly changing.
CEELM: Do you see any significant legislation on the horizon, and – if so – how are you preparing for it?
Madalina: For the future, on both the national and EU levels, I see many initiatives regarding product compliance, labeling, and commercial relations between manufacturers/distributors/retailers – and each of them will represent a focal point for us as a company. Our goal is always to provide great products, keeping in mind the best interests of the consumers, and my role is to ensure we do this in strict compliance with the legal framework.
Also, it will be a challenge to see how we adapt the business and return to the office post-lock-down. The global pandemic forced everyone to adapt instantly and to find new ways of working. Thus, in this respect we will also need to see what the new normal will be for all of us.