How Today’s General Counsel Helps Drive Strategies
March 13, 2023 – Today’s general counsel serves as a trusted advisor to the entire company, leading all corporate, strategic, and tactical legal initiatives, while providing management and operating teams with impeccable legal and business judgment.
“Great general counsels are great operators and serve cross-functionally across company strategies, with a granular understanding of every piece of the business, maybe even more so than other functional leaders,” said Alex Lebow, co-founder of Daversa Partners’ legal practice. “Additionally, general counsels manage the entirety of the legal function and obtain and oversee the work of outside counsel. They play a pivotal role in complex corporate activities including capital market events and negotiation of critical business transactions.”
“For those who recruit general counsels, as with most top-level functions and sectors, finding the best prospects calls for a strong knowledge base of individuals’ backgrounds and current roles,” said Brittany Rosenfeld, associate director of Daversa Partners. “First, there’s pedigree. Candidates that have worked for the top law firms focused on the technology industry will know the issues they’ll be facing as a general counsel. In our opinion, this is where lawyers learn to be great.”
“You also see those who have worked in the less-defined areas of the law as great potential candidates, as we know that complexity exists in the gray area,” Ms. Rosenfeld said. “For example, it’s very straightforward when there is a written black-and-white regulation that you need to follow – but when you’re a lawyer inside of a Web3 or crypto company, there is very little regulation that applies to what you’re doing. That means you need to extrapolate based on what’s out there for FinTech or DeFi (decentralized finance) or other tangential industries.”
“As for attracting top legal talent, it is important to convey the role as a strategic business partner to the CEO and a key driver of growth,” said Mr. Lebow. “The top one percent of lawyers will be great operators, people leaders, and bring a different perspective and framework of thinking to the leadership team.”
“There are certain industries where subject matter expertise matters more than others,” Ms. Rosenfeld said. “Most notably, companies in highly regulated spaces will have an advantage if they bring on a leader with a wealth of knowledge in their respective field; such as FinTech or digital health. This is not to say that candidates without domain expertise are categorically unqualified, but there will be a learning curve and CEOs need to understand that.”
“In addition, companies that are building in regulated industries must have a general counsel, as they need to comfortably and confidently operate in the legal gray area,” said Mr. Lebow. “This is true in FinTech, and it’s true with digital health – a huge area of focus for investors over the last several years. Both are highly regulated industries in which you need to have a general counsel to help you navigate complex issues.”
“This is one of the things that has led to more companies running executive retained searches to find their general counsel because over time, investors and CEOs have realized that a great general counsel is a point of leverage for a growing company, and they want to do the role justice by running a proper search.
Join Daversa Partners tomorrow for an interactive webinar supported by Hunt Scanlon Media. This session will focus on how the general counsel has become a critical and invaluable member of leadership teams everywhere. With no end in sight for the demand of these leaders, GCs have become a true strategic partner while acting as an accelerant across organizations.
This is a great opportunity to hear firsthand from some of the key players in our industry. They will share valuable insights into the evolution of this role, how to identify and evaluate talent within the legal ecosystem, and the impact that GCs are making within businesses, and more broadly across the regulatory landscape.
Leading this session will be the Mr. Lebow and Ms. Rosenfeld. Special guest Mike Heath, partner at Gunderson Dettmer, who represents emerging growth companies, technology incubators, and venture funds, along with Celaena Powder, VP of legal at Seismic, an AI-powered global sales enablement platform, will be joining the panel to provide unparalleled legal insight and expertise.
Free registration … Click here to sign up!
Mike Heath co-founded Gunderson Dettmer’s Los Angeles office in 2012. He represents emerging growth companies, technology incubators, and venture funds. Mr. Heath helps founders and boards form, finance, and sell companies, and he serves as outside general counsel on day-to-day legal matters. His clients’ industries include E-commerce, media, medical device, real estate, enterprise SaaS, fashion, and hardware. Mr. Heath also advises leading venture funds and technology incubators in equity, debt, and token investments. Mr. Heath was recently named a “Next Generation Partner” by the Legal 500. Clients noted that he is “incredibly knowledgeable, responsive, and always helpful” and “my favorite external counsel of all of the attorneys that we work with.”
Celaena Powder serves as vice president, legal at Seismic, a global SaaS company and leader in the sales enablement space. In her role, she oversees legal, compliance, and information security for the company, and serves as a valuable strategic advisor for all business functions. Before joining Seismic, Ms. Powder was an attorney at Gunderson Dettmer where she represented emerging growth companies throughout their lifecycles as well as venture capital funds in their investments.
Alex Lebow is a partner in Daversa Partners’ Los Angeles office. Since joining Daversa Partners in 2009, he has worked closely with top-tier VC firms such as Bond, Benchmark, SoftBank, Upfront, NEA, and Expa, among others. His recent work includes senior placements at Canva, Brex, Hippo, C2FO, Calendly, Sprout Social, Current, Dapper Labs, Faire, and Autograph.
Brittany Rosenfeld is an associate director with Daversa Partners. She is a passionate and fearless executive who brings an unparalleled degree of creativity and hustle to her search work. Ms. Rosenfeld started her career with Daversa in their New York City office before making the move to Los Angeles. She is one of Daversa’s top recruiters throughout the firm’s Southern California ecosystem. Some of her most recent work includes placements at Brex, Wildlife Studios, Varo Money, Sprout Social, Liquid Death, and C2FO.
Attendance is free. To learn more and register to attend, click here
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media