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98: 4 Realities of In-House Legal

With David Pashman of Meetup

For LeftFoot episode 98 we interviewed David Pashman, a former big law transaction lawyer turned startup general counsel and educator.  David is currently the Head of Integration following the WeWork / Meetup transaction.

Reality #1: Going In-House is a Transition

A big part of David’s transition was learning to work effectively with business people, presenting complex legal issues with an emphasis on ‘why his business partner should care’.   He also gained a comfort level working with risk and uncertainty, a necessity when delivering timely advice.   His approach is to rely on what he knows and doesn’t know.   For topics, you know use your own best judgment, for topics you don’t know rely on others.   Having a strong sense of what you know – and don’t know – is critical.

Reality #2: Cost Isn’t Always a Priority 

When evaluating outside resources, David’s focus isn’t locating a low-cost provider, noting by category that lawyers charge similar rates.  He’s looking for outside partners to assist in solving business problems outside his knowledge area with seasoned judgment and experience.  In his view, innovation and cost are less important than efficient problem-solving.

Reality #3: Specific Preparation is Expected

When looking to secure a new client, David suggests an amount of research similar to what you’d do if you were interviewing for a position.   With the access to information available today, it’s not OK to be uninformed.  David looks to evaluate a potential partner’s ability to understand the legal and business situation requiring resolution noting the presenting party should have thought through the business situation and offered suggestions for resolution – even without all the details.

Reality #4: The Goal is Efficient Problem Solving

When it comes to advising on business development, David suggests beginning with a problem the client looking to solve.   Describe a possible resolution – in detail; letting the client see how you’d work and communicate as a team.   Just starting out? Spend time with business people, understand how they think, what their day is like.  Do research to understand your client or potential client’s business mindset.

David Pashman is a former big law transaction lawyer turned startup general counsel and educator.  David sees the role of the lawyer as an advisor, business partner and consigliere as opposed to the technician. A true believer in Networking to be successful he joined Meetup as their General Counsel in 2010 and is currently the Head of Integration following the WeWork transaction.   David Pashman Bio