Women in the Industry: In-House Counsel

Women have excelled in one of the most important and powerful positions in direct response.


The in-house counsel is a company’s first line of defense in matters of legal liability and all transactions requiring legal expertise. They also provide insight when companies create risk-management policies and may take part in educating employees about recognizing and dealing with issues before they become liabilities. In-house counsel can be especially useful in the direct response industry, handling matters related to patent law, licensing, and trademarks. While there can be obstacles generated by the stigmas associated with the legal profession, as well as some of the unique barriers women can face in a professional setting, the following women demonstrate that the complexity and fast pace of the infomercial industry can provide the best of both worlds for experts whose interests lie in both law and business.


Jennifer De Marco
General Counsel

Allstar Products Group


Jennifer De Marco is general counsel of Allstar Products Group, the Hawthorne, N.Y.-based company responsible for popular products like the Snuggie, the Perfect Bacon Bowl, and Bumpits. Early in her legal career, she realized that her natural interests lay in sales, marketing, advertising, and intellectual property, along with innovation. Rather than directing her career path toward a national firm, De Marco combined her passion for business with her legal expertise to enter the infomercial industry, which she says was “a breath of fresh air for an attorney who wants to be a part of a dynamic space.”


While De Marco’s day-to-day tasks include handling contracts, compliance, advice, and counsel to all business groups, the most appealing aspect of the position is that she is often challenged to provide “quick and practical judgment based on knowledge and expertise in various areas of law including product development, intellectual property, advertising, sales, quality, and safety.” De Marco stresses the importance of addressing counterfeiting and piracy due to liability issues, as well as public health and safety, noting the need for continual monitoring and vigilance of product marketing and production.


“These best practices include working with trusted suppliers and partners, direct and indirect quality testing on and off the production line, monitoring shipments of goods, controlling the disposal of unusable goods, maintaining an intellectual property portfolio, and ensuring the integrity of the distribution channel,” De Marco says.


De Marco says her challenges in the industry stem less from her gender than from negative perceptions regarding attorneys as potential economic drains on a company, as well as a barrier to aggressive forward momentum. De Marco stresses that in her role as in-house counsel, she strives to be “a business partner rather than a speed bump or an obstacle.”



Laurie McLaughlin
Senior Vice President, General Counsel

Ideal Living Group


Laurie McLaughlin is senior vice president and general counsel for Ideal Living Group, the Van Nuys, Calif.-based DRTV, Internet, and retail marketing company of consumer products such as Walk Fit Orthotics, Light Relief, and Miracle Blade Knives. Before joining Ideal Living (then Sylmark Group) in 2003, McLaughlin spent eight years in New York as a litigator at the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, and subsequently as senior corporate counsel for Tyco International. McLaughlin’s move to Sylmark was predicated by her desire to return to the Los Angeles area, and although she had little familiarity with the DRTV world, “the idea of working for a company that produced infomercials and sold consumer products via television seemed interesting and fun.”


As general counsel, McLaughlin’s duties involve negotiation, contract preparation, litigation, risk management and assessment, regulatory compliance, and working with outside counsel. McLaughlin’s primary focus is on reducing outside legal fees by handling much of the necessary legal work in-house, which often involves substantiating all claims prior to product release and crafting measures to protect the company from lawsuits by class action lawyers and competitors.


McLaughlin considers herself a businessperson first, and an attorney second. “When it comes to the infomercial industry, there are many challenges, including changing television viewer habits, higher cost of goods, a stricter regulatory environment, and a proliferation of knock-offs and intellectual property infringement,” McLaughlin says. Increasing profitability through new opportunities, effective negotiation, cost reduction, risk management, and relationship building are all necessary aspects of the job, but there’s great potential for success and professional achievements.


As for how being a high-powered woman in the infomercial industry can have its own challenges, “It depends on whether the focus of this question is ‘high-powered,’ ‘woman,’ or ‘infomercial industry,’” she says. “When it comes to being high-powered, having power and influence means you have a much greater ability to overcome challenges, and that’s a good thing. When it comes to being a woman, I think the challenges are the same in the infomercial industry as in any other industry.”

Michi Trota is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Chicago.