There is never a typical day for an early-stage startup in the legal department. -
The hours at a startup are more predictable than at a law firm.
Switching industries can be challenging. However, remember that you were hired for your diverse set of skills.
The in-house counsel of your competitors is surprisingly a great place to seek advice.
Think of your role as a stakeholder – you can’t say no or yes to every legal question, you want your equity to increase.
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Noah Spaulding (@noahspaulding) is the Chief Legal Officer at Hometap.
Hometap provides a solution for homeowners to be paid for the equity they’ve accumulated in their home without a loan.
What a typical day looks like for Noah
There is never a typical day for an early-stage startup in the legal department. Noah is covering the full scope of the legal needs for Hometap.
Noah spends a few hours in the morning meeting with the finance and marketing teams to see where their growth projections are.
Then, Noah spends a few hours doing regulatory and statutory research. There is going to be a lot of state-specific research. Later, Noah can do transactional and contract research. What do the actual contracts look like?
Later in the day, Noah will do the random items that come up. Depending on the needs of the company, he will work with the finance team on the capital side.
The hours at an early-stage startup
Noah gets in at 8:30 and leaves at 4:30. Later in the day, he works remotely.
The hours are not dramatically higher at a law firm. Noah says his hours are more predictable at the startup.
Shifting industries can be a daunting task.
Noah felt like he was starting over from scratch.
Eventually, Noah realized that the company hired him for a reason. He has a specific skill set and can handle the full scope of legal needs.
“Have confidence in your skills and why you were hired.” - Noah Spaulding
Seeking mentors and advice
When Noah has questions, there are a few different places he can go to. Friends, former coworkers, online communities, and the in-house counsel of their competitors.
Why do people help their competitors? When it comes to legal matters, there is a lot more to be gained by collaborating and becoming resources for others.
When answering legal questions, you need to trust your instinct and accept that you will not be right 100% of the time.
Tips for first time GCs
You can negotiate discounts with outside counsel.
Coming in as a new GC, it is a great time to reassess if they are using the right firms.
Conferences and newsletters are not a waste of time.
Take the time to find newsletters that are going to be the most helpful for you.
If you do not have a broader legal team, then you may not hear updates of the latest in your specific field.
Non-legal skills needed to succeed as a GC
Understand that when your role changes, the way you see problems also needs to change.
Businesspeople do not like working with outside counsel. Outside counsel is more conservative.
Be comfortable thinking about your position as a stakeholder. If you want your equity to be worth more, then you can’t say no to everything.
Noah identifies his own weaknesses, so he hires to fill them. He does not have a lot of experience in the real estate world, so he hired someone who does.