When people hear that Tom Dale ’82 works for Rolls-Royce, he often has to explain that the company he works for doesn’t make cars—that division was sold off long ago and the name licensed to BMW for use on the iconic luxury vehicles. As executive vice president and general counsel of Rolls-Royce North America, a leading engineering company focused on world-class power and propulsion systems, Dale doesn’t mind clearing up the confusion. After all, he says, “When people say Rolls-Royce, they mean it’s the best.”
Dale joined the company in 1990 as its first American lawyer. “At that time, Rolls-Royce in the US was just a marketing outpost along with some technical support personnel at scattered airports,” he explains. Over the past two-plus decades, the North America operation has grown to more than 7,000 people, including a legal team of thirty that Dale, based in Virginia, directs.
Today, the company is one of the world’s leading producers of aero engines for large civil aircraft and corporate jets and the second largest provider of defense aero engines. Rolls-Royce also designs marine vessels and integrates power systems, recently acquired a diesel engine business, has a growing presence in civil nuclear power, and announced a partnership with Airbus and Siemens to produce a hybrid aircraft.
“As the world migrates to new technologies, such as electric propulsion and autonomous aircraft and marine vessels, the innovations pioneered by Rolls-Royce present interesting business scenarios for its legal counsel,” Dale says. Those scenarios include issues concerning IP rights and technology development, cybersecurity, and trade regulations affecting the movement of ideas and products across borders.
Staffing diversity is one of Dale’s top objectives. His team has been recognized with the Minority Corporate Counsel Association’s Employer of Choice Award. “People working with me understand that diversity is valued,” he says, “and in the end, we get a better result.”