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ACC South Carolina Chapter Member Spotlight: 

Natalie Dunham

Corporate Counsel, Milliken & Company

When did you “go in-house,” and what prompted your decision? 

I went in-house at Milliken & Company in January of 2016.  I worked for Milliken as outside counsel and also had the opportunity to do a short secondment there while I was practicing at Wyche, so I was familiar with the Legal Team and always thought it would be a great place to work.

What do you enjoy most about being an in-house counsel? 

I enjoy that every day is different.  I get to work with cross-functional teams around the globe on projects that range from implementing a new contract management system to providing legal support for our corporate charitable foundation, but there are also always numerous smaller tasks and questions that pop up during the day to add even more variety.

Do you miss anything about your prior position? 

I miss my colleagues.  I enjoyed having a personal relationship with everyone I worked with at Wyche, which is not possible now in a company with over 8,000 employees.

Have you had any strong mentors in your career? What did they teach you?

Melinda Davis Lux was my mentor during my five-year tenure at Wyche, and I would not be in the position I am in today if she hadn’t guided me and advocated for me.  She taught me a lot about setting goals for yourself and being open to new challenges.

What matter or accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?

Since joining Milliken, I have been involved in the application process for Ethisphere’s annual World’s Most Ethical Companies designation, which Milliken has won for 16 consecutive years.  It’s a lot of work and requires gathering information from across the company on everything from corporate governance to greenhouse gas emissions, and I am proud to play a part in highlighting Milliken’s leadership in ethics and compliance.  

What key advice would you give to new in-house lawyers or those contemplating going in house?

Learn as much as you can about the company’s strategy and products.  You will be a more valuable advisor if you understand the business.  Also, build relationships outside of Legal so that people will see you as a resource and not as an obstacle.

Has the COVID pandemic changed your perspective in any way?

COVID forced me to learn how to be productive working from home and embrace technology, and I am a big fan of remote work now.  It has also given me even more respect for our production associates, supply chain managers, etc. who have been able to keep people safe and keep making products in the face of so much change and uncertainty.

Aside from the law, what professions are interesting to you?

Any job involving books is interesting to me.  I seriously considered becoming a law librarian, but my dream job is probably book editor or young adult author.

Are you an “early bird” or “night owl”?

Definitely a night owl, and my children are the same way, so mornings are a real joy in our house!  I find that I do my best writing at night.

What do you enjoy outside of work?

Reading and going to the pool (and ideally reading while at the pool, if my kids will let me sit down).

What book or movie do you recommend, and why?

Two books that I enjoyed recently are “D (A Tale of Two Worlds)” by Michel Faber (fun but thought-provoking with some very timely points about the importance of language) and “Horse Heaven” by Jane Smiley (felt like the grown-up version of all the horse books I used to read as a child).

How long have you been an ACC member, and what is your favorite part about it?

I joined the ACC very soon after starting at Milliken.  I really appreciate the CLE offerings tailored for in-house counsel.