Corena Norris-McCluney (JD ’00) enjoys having a seat at Krispy Kreme’s table

Photo of Wake Forest Law student Jason Chung (JD '17), alumna Corena Norris-McCluney (JD ’00) and Professor Omari Simmons pose following her presentation as part of the Business Law Program's Sager Series.

Wake Forest Law student Jason Chung (JD '17), alumna Corena Norris-McCluney (JD ’00) and Professor Omari Simmons pose following her presentation as part of the Business Law Program's Sager Series.

Indulging in a hot, glazed Krispy Kreme doughnut is a sweet reminder of success for Corena Norris-McCluney (JD ‘00). As vice president and general counsel of the Winston-Salem-based Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, she faces the unique challenges of helping run an international business on a daily basis.

“I know you’re thinking, ‘It’s just doughnuts, how complex can it be?’” Norris-McCluney recently asked a group of Wake Forest Law students. “A lot goes into it, and it’s more than just producing doughnuts. We’re in 31 countries with 13,500 stores, consumer-packaged goods and licensing. Each day, you never know what you’re going to get.”

Norris-McCluney spoke as part of the Business Law Program’s Sager Series on April 5, 2017. Students enjoyed lunch and Krispy Kreme doughnuts during the program hosted by Professor Omari Simmons.

“We hit the jackpot,” said Simmons. “I think, as with a lot of our speakers, she reflects the highest ideals of the legal profession. Beyond being an avid professional, she is a wonderful person. My previous words don’t begin to speak to her commitment to the profession, to the community and to you as students.”

Norris-McCluney graduated from North Carolina State University before attending Wake Forest Law. She practiced with Kilpatrick Townsend LLP, a full-service international law firm, for nearly 12 years. During this time, she was awarded the North Carolina Bar Association’s Citizen Lawyer Award for her work arranging the Stories of Excellence luncheon series at Cook Elementary School in Winston-Salem.

“Working at a law firm gave me an opportunity to quickly learn what I didn’t want to do,” Norris-McCluney said. “It gave me an opportunity to work in a lot of different areas and it prepared me for things I would do later in my career.”

After joining Krispy Kreme in 2014, she realized the considerable differences between working at an outside law firm and being on the general counsel for a corporation.

“You have to know how your legal knowledge impacts the business,” Norris-McCluney said. “You have to know the business just as well as a traditional business person. (Krispy Kreme) isn’t just looking for legal advice, they’re expecting us to work magic. Having a seat at the table gives us an opportunity to prevent them from mis-stepping, where at an outside law firm you only get the reactive call.”

As large corporations begin establishing general counsels, the legal profession is shifting to accommodate business and legal needs.

“The emergence of general counsels is probably one of the most significant transformation of the legal profession over the past half century,” Simmons said. “Many observers would call general counsel the Swiss army knife of the legal profession.”

Norris-McCluney values practical problem solving and an understanding of business needs when hiring services from outside law firms.

“I look for diversity because I want a law firm that has diversity of thought. If it’s the same people telling me the same thing, that’s not helpful to me. I need different opinions, and I need options.”