“I’m trying to bring everyone together and open up a little”

True to his small-town roots, Piper Jaffray’s general counsel is disrupting lawyering as usual by encouraging his team to get to know their neighbors

How I ended at Piper Jaffray is very fortuitous, but it follows a fairly typical path. I started at a great law firm, now Faegre Baker Daniels LLP, in the corporate group and worked for Piper Jaffray while at the law firm. I made the choice to leave the law firm fairly early, after just four years, which may have been somewhat unique at the time. The law firm environment was a great experience, but it was followed by a very committed and thoughtful mentorship at Piper Jaffray by the general counsel I succeeded, which was key to my development.

My father is also an incredible mentor. He is an independent banker in a small town in Iowa, so I grew up with financial services front and center. Piper Jaffray isn’t a bank, but it is a financial services company connecting capital with people, just like a bank. So I feel passionate about the business and enjoy learning about it, having had a front row seat to watching my father finance farmers all my life. That small-town experience also means I feel passionate about the culture, putting clients first, and making sure that we are doing the right thing.

What I value, and where I believe I can add value, is getting the best out of myself and the lawyers at Piper Jaffray by doing more together. Talking to your colleague three doors down who just resolved a piece of litigation might reveal clues about legal expense management, negotiation tactics, and procedural tactics. The best way to win as a team is to actually be a team. It sounds obvious, but I don’t always feel like that’s the case when a group of lawyers gets together.

Everyone in the legal group really knows their stuff, so I’m trying to bring everyone together and open up a little. In one of my operating committee meetings I showed Brené Brown’s TED talk on the power of vulnerability. In May, I held an off-site meeting that focused solely on team-building and getting to know one another. Then, late in the year, I revised the self-review to include two new questions. The first asked whether there were instances of working effectively with your colleagues to creatively solve problems, and the second was whether there were areas in which you were able to provide strategic advice to business partners, regardless of whether that advice was legal in nature. I’ve tried to create an environment that fosters the collaborative work that I want to see.