No “typical day” in the life of Silicon Valley general counselors

In preparation for Legaltech West, a conference on legal technologyfour general counselors from companies in Silicon Valley such as SurveyMonkey and Adobe System were asked to speak on a panel entitled “A Day in the Life: The Role of the Silicon Valley General Counsel”. The moderator for the panel, Dean Gonsowski, global head of information governance at Recommind, thinks that the title is bit misleading. For these lawyers, there’s no such thing as a typical day. Working in an ever-changing environment like Silicon Valley means that these general counselors not only have to be comfortable dealing with traditional tasks, they also have to be able to handle unique and challenging problems every day. However, Gonsowski describes these challenges as just “blips in the radar”.

So what allows these general counselors to continue to do their jobs in an environment driven by constantly-evolving technology? While being knowledgeable about tech is definitely required, preparing for technological problems such as data breaches is considered ordinary in Silicon Valley. Rather, general counselors have to be able to effectively handle unprecedented problems. For example, the general counselor from SurveyMonkey speaking on the panel was able to direct a smooth transition after the CEO was unfortunately lost in an accident, despite not having adequately prepared for such an occurrence. Gonsowski cites her experience working in a fast-paced environment as the reason her and her team were able to handle the situation. These general counselors’ work amidst constant variability and disruption prepares them to handle problems a company much older may not experience at all.

Gonsowki thinks that hearing about these general counselors’ day-to-day lives may inspire people to try to follow in their footsteps. But, based on the fact that virtually any kind of problem can be handed to them, legal counsel in Silicon Valley don’t usually have a set job description or even a normal operating procedure. Therefore, according to Gonsowski, “this level of chaos is not going to be for everybody”.

Article via Legaltech NewsJuly 7, 2015

Photo: oracle via Dave [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]