February 7, 2013

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Corporate counsel helps with Tim Hortons’ expansion

Kate Clay’s career has taken her from Ohio to the West Coast and across the Atlantic Ocean, but it’s her current position with Tim Hortons in Central Ohio that has made her want to stay put.

Since graduating from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law in 2002, Clay has worked in Portland, Ore., doing business and real estate law, at a law firm in Germany, and in Columbus at a law firm focusing on international law and business and real estate issues. In 2011, Clay was hired by Tim Hortons as the company’s corporate counsel for U.S. real estate — a job where her previous experience is put to use on a daily basis.

“Essentially what I’m responsible for … is the acquisition of fee simple title or lease-hold rights to properties where we’re opening new restaurants,” she said.

With Tim Hortons rapidly expanding in the U.S., Clay needs to make sure she gets all projects done in a timely fashion. “They’re all equally important but (I need to know) what the timelines on each deal are,” she said.

One of the challenges of Clay’s job is juggling the volume of deals. She focuses first on the projects that demand the quickest turnaround, all the while trying to keep other deals moving forward.

There are definite perks to working for a leader in the quick-serve restaurant market like Tim Hortons, including the food.

Her favorite donut?

“You can’t go wrong with any flavor of TimBits,” she said. In fact, her whole family likes them. Clay likes good old-fashioned glazed, while her daughter and husband prefer strawberry and blueberry.

Along with her love for the product, watching Tim Hortons grow and develop is her favorite aspect of her career.

“It’s fun to drive down the street and see a new Tim Hortons that has opened that I’ve been a part of,” Clay said. She’s been a part of the opening of a number of local locations, including new restaurants in Columbus, Powell, Gahanna, and Bexley.

With Tim Hortons rapidly expanding in New York, Michigan, and Ohio, Clay is sure to be keeping busy.

“At this point, we’re increasing our restaurant count in core markets for our customers. We’re filling in holes in the market, adding restaurants to increase convenience to our customers,” she said.

Currently, Tim Hortons has more than 700 locations in 13 states: Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, New Jersey, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. The company has more than 3,000 restaurants throughout Canada.

Tim Hortons also is looking to expand internationally to areas of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a union of Arab states around the Persian Gulf. The company already has locations in the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

In addition to her work at Tim Hortons, Clay is a member of Commercial Real Estate Women of Columbus, also known as CREW Columbus. The group’s goal is to promote networking among women in the commercial real estate industry of Columbus – an industry that is typically dominated by men.

“Women in this industry come together to share stories and network through business, to be up to date on current events or a current project,” Clay said.

She joined the group when a client from her days at Porter Wright Morris and Arthur LLP asked her to attend a meeting.

Networking has proved useful for Clay and it’s something she thinks female law students should value as well. “They (organizations like CREW Columbus) give you an opportunity to network and get your foot in the door to meet people in the industry,” she said.

During her time at Moritz, Clay took a range of classes, making her more marketable to law firms dealing with many different types of clients and private corporations like Tim Hortons.

“I took a wide variety of business classes, and that has been really important in my career especially being in-house at a publicly traded company,” she said. “The legal issues are one component of what I do, but I need to understand Tim Hortons’ business and how what I do has an impact on that.”

Her experiences at Moritz and her career put Clay in a position to work in any aspect of the law industry just about anywhere on the globe, but her current position at Tim Hortons is exactly where she wants to be.

This article was written by T.K. Brady.

SideBar is a monthly electronic newsletter for Moritz College of Law alumni. Questions regarding this publication should be directed to moritzlawnews@osu.edu.