Ron Lauderdale ’74: Working on the Cutting Edge of Technology Law
“In the area that I practice at IBM, the law has to catch up to the technology,” said Ron Lauderdale ’74. “There is constantly something new to learn.” After working at IBM for more than 30 years in more than14 different positions, Ron has learned the intricacies and evolutions of technology law. In his current position as vice president and assistant general counsel, he is responsible for all legal matters involving IBM’s hardware, technology and research businesses and manages more than 160 other lawyers.
Ron started with the company fresh out of law school and has stayed there ever since. However, holding jobs as diverse as director of stockholder relations, division counsel for one of IBM’s many brands, regional marketing counsel and managing attorney for all law personnel, he says that it has felt like he has worked at several different companies over the years. “The fact that IBM was a global leader in technology at the time attracted me to the company,” Ron said. “Computers and software were taking off, and the chance to become an expert in a rapidly expanding industry was a great opportunity.”
Originally hoping to go into business, Ron said working at IBM has provided a good mix of business and law. Ron often advises colleagues on acquisitions and divestitures that shape the company’s product line. Recently, he worked on some unique and cutting-edge topics that have emerged in today’s increasingly digital world.
For example, lawyers in Ron’s group have collaborated on the legal issues surrounding commercial and personal interactions within online virtual worlds like Second Life. A perfect instance of the law catching up to the technology, the rules are being written on the presence of companies and brands within the digital world and the rights of the “inhabitants.” “Steve Mortinger, a senior lawyer working with me who is also an Ohio State graduate, has become a nationally recognized expert on the developing law of virtual worlds. We are determining the rights of online avatars, if you can believe it,” Ron said.
Ron came to Ohio State for both his undergraduate and law degrees after growing up in several different locations. With his father in the military, his family spent time in Germany, Colorado, Texas, Illinois, and Ohio. Ron said that while at Ohio State he fell in love with the law and now can’t imagine doing anything else.
He still recalls classes with and advice from his favorite professor, Jack Slain. “I’ll never forget when he told me that practicing law is like being a plumber. You have to connect the right fittings to the right pipes to make sure there are no leaks and everything flows as it is supposed to,” Ron said. “That still influences my approach to legal problems today.”
Ron plans to continue with IBM and explore new issues in the digital world as they arise. Outside of work, he serves on the board of his public library where he promotes access to better educational resources and computer literacy. He is also considering doing some pro bono child advocacy in his free time as well.
Ron currently lives in Greenwich, Conn., with his wife, Valerie, and their son, Todd, 17. Their older son, Phillip, 25, is a 2L at the Moritz College of Law.