What do you consider your most important role?
Providing legal support to management and the board to ensure that the company and each of them individually complies with the law, including securities and international law. Providing effective advice on both the legal and business aspects of various deals and the company’s strategy.
What are you doing to identify and prevent regulatory risk to the company?
I continually read updates on new legal developments, attend seminars and often meet with outside counsel to ensure I am fully educated on all legal issues. In the event I do find a potential issue I present a solution to minimize any potential risk to management and the board.
What are you doing to assist in cost optimization efforts for the company?
I carefully review all legal bills to ensure they are accurate and appropriate; I also perform as many of the legal activities internally and limit the use of outside counsel other than complicated litigation, international and securities issues. I also have various alternative legal arrangements with counsel on specific matters from time to time.
What specific elements or trends in your industry affect your role as general counsel?
One key aspect is the trend towards general counsel being more of a business partner than strictly the legal person. I have expanded my role within the company and taken on some non-legal areas such as risk management, contract management process and some human resources functions.
How important is it for in-house counsel to understand the core business? What does this look like at Synchronoss Technologies? How did you learn the industry/business you’re in?
As discussed above, this is extremely important at Synchronoss – I am part of an executive staff that is limited to direct reports of the CEO. I try to attend as many product meetings as well so I can understand any new product offerings and updates on any new business developments.
What qualities make a strong in-house counsel?
I think most individuals that are vying for a general counsel have a strong understanding of the law; however effective general counsel are those that work closely with the business on their operations and strategy and ensure that there are no legal obstacles to ensure the legal aspects do not impede the operations and strategy. In addition, you need to adapt as the business takes on new initiatives. For example, two key issues for Synchronoss are data privacy and foreign corrupt practices act issues as we move towards doing businesses in new countries. I have had to learn about the different laws in these jurisdictions and make sure I have strong outside counsel in each jurisdiction where the company plans to conduct business.
What was your previous career like and how did you get to where you are at today?
I chose my first law firm, Richards & O’Neil, a 50-person law firm at the time (which was acquired by Bingham and is now part of Morgan Lewis) because it enabled me to explore different aspects of corporate law, including general corporate, M&A and securities. I was able to work in all these areas and got a strong foundation for my legal career. I also spent several years in litigation, which has also been helpful in my current position since I was able to learn about how companies should handle these type of cases. I applied through the New York Times for my first in-house position at Dialogic. The General Counsel at Dialogic at that time had a strong IP background, but I believe I was hired due to my “generalist” background because I have been exposed to a lot of different areas of the law. Eighteen months later Dialogic was acquired by Intel Corporation. Although I never wanted to work for a large corporation, my experience at Intel allowed me to learn from some of the best lawyers in the world and how one of the top companies operates. I have been able to use these learnings every day in my current position.