startup company lawyer

Ten Things: Legal Department of One – A Survival Guide

“One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.

Two can be as bad as one, it’s the loneliest number since the number one.”

 One” Three Dog Night

I appreciate everyone who writes to me about the blog.  In particular, I enjoy your suggestions for future blog posts and I always add them to my list of ideas.  Today, I am writing on a topic that several readers have asked me about – how to deal with being the only lawyer in the department, a/k/a the “loneliest number.”  First, I think being an in-house lawyer is the best job in the legal profession.  I say that having always been part of a good-sized legal department:  at American Airlines, at Sabre Corporation, and now here at Marketo.  The smallest department I have been associated with was my first year at Travelocity when there were five of us (one year prior to acquiring another online travel company in London which added several more to the team).  I have never been a solo general counsel or member of a really small team.  So, I have been a little hesitant to write about something where my experience is somewhat lacking.  Having thought about it, however, I think I have enough general experience to share some thoughts on what I would be looking for – or doing –  if I were to ever become a legal department of one.  I think the ideas below also work well for someone who is part of a relatively small department.

I start with thinking about what drives someone to accept a position as a solo general counsel.  I imagine that it is probably a combination of wanting to build something from scratch, of wanting to do it your way, and the potential for a substantial economic payoff down the road when the small or start-up company gets “big.”  Additionally, I suspect someone wanting the “Lone Ranger” role enjoys the rocket-like pace and the challenge of being the only lawyer at a company.  Regardless of your reasons, this edition of “Ten Things” discusses what you need to do and watch out for if you want to succeed as a legal department of one:

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