General Assembly Panel Advises Students and Young Lawyers on Becoming In-House Counsel

Last night General Assembly hosted a panel of general counsel from startups, including Etsy, Flavorpill, Meetup, and FourSquare. Panelists discussed their duties as legal counsel and how they got their positions, and gave advice on how lawyers can become general counsel for startups.

Emphasizing the need for business acumen in addition to varied legal expertise, the panelists explained that they split their time evenly between business and legal matters. They stressed that firm work is a good stepping stone to becoming in-house counsel, as it gave them a well-rounded bank of skills that they apply to their jobs as general counsel for startups. One panelist compared firm work to a boot camp. One thing that can give you a leg up on the competition when applying for positions at startups is to know how to do one thing that they come across often and know how to do it well, such as non-disclosure or non-compete agreements.

The general tone was that the position was not best suited for students straight out of law school, and that a few years’ experience at a general firm was preferable. Sarah Feingold from Etsy, who was the one panelist who had hired additional members to the company’s legal team, said that the person she hired had prior experience as general counsel for a startup. She emphasized that she just didn’t have the resources to train someone from scratch for the position.

By Katy Isakovich

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