Building a successful legal team at a tech company goes beyond hiring talented professionals; it requires a well-defined and adaptable job ladder that supports growth and inclusiveness. In a world where legal challenges are as dynamic as the businesses they serve, crafting a career path that balances clarity with flexibility, equity with specialization, and human ingenuity with technology is crucial for thriving in today’s fast-paced environment.

Here, Katherine Mayberry, VP Associate General Counsel, Farmers Business Network, David Ortenberg, CLO, The Athletic Media Company, and Matt Margolis, former Head of Legal & Community, Lawtrades, share their best advice for creating a framework for your legal team that will grow alongside the business.

Featuring Insights From:

Katherine Mayberry

VP Associate General Counsel, Farmers Business Network

David Ortenberg

CLO, The Athletic Media Company

Matt Margolis

former Head of Legal & Community, Lawtrades

Key Takeaways: 

  • Create a job ladder for your organization, including objective metrics for advancement, ensuring that employees know what they need to prioritize for career growth.
  • In high-growth companies, an org structure is bound to evolve, so prioritize clear communication and empathetic conversations during times of change.
  • Software and automation tools can help your legal team scale without adding more people to the org chart.

Insights derived from members of the TechGC Community

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Ensure Job Ladders and Growth Opportunities Are Clear

In an environment where attorneys are often balancing urgent matters with long-term strategy, clarity in career progression is vital. “Your team needs to be crystal clear on how they can develop and advance so that they can prioritize accordingly,” says Mayberry. But, she notes, a commitment to regular feedback and transparency is key. “Even the clearest job ladder will lack impact if there isn’t commitment to regularly communicating expectations along with feedback about how someone is progressing.” 

TechGC members have access to job ladder templates, job descriptions, and other hiring resources in our Braintrust. Apply for membership today.

Focus on DE&I Principles and Objectivity

Equity and inclusiveness form the foundation of a healthy legal team’s ladder. This involves recognizing how race and gender can influence strategies used by lawyers in their current roles and being mindful of bias. To ensure a fair and inclusive pathway to promotions, mMake sure that job descriptions and leveling frameworks are objective — i.e., clearly spelling out what skills, experiences, and performance metrics need to be achieved for someone to be promoted or change jobs — and that managers are actively helping team members develop the qualities needed for advancement.

“While there is always some manner of subjectivity in promotions, the more objective the goals you put in front of your team are, the easier it will be to ensure that opportunities are being spread around your team and you’re giving the right people opportunities to push themselves,.” says Ortenberg. 

Keep the Org Structure Flexible, But Communicate Changes

In the unpredictable world of startups, the job ladder must be flexible enough to adapt to business changes. However, rRedesigning a legal team’s organizational structure is often filled with challenges. Many times changes, even positive ones, can cause anxiety. Clear communication about the new design and having honest, empathetic conversations about changes can help ease the transition, particularly when one attorney has been promoted over another. 

For example, “one person may be better suited as a Deputy GC, but they may be content with having oversight over a particular practice area or aspect of the business,” says Margolis. “This requires a conversation regarding goals with that person before a change of organizational structure is made.”

Strike a Balance Between Specialization & Cross-Functional Collaboration

Cross-functional collaboration seems to give back some of the efficiency gains created by specialization,” says Mayberry. “However, it is necessary to build an anti-fragile legal department that can withstand personnel changes, offer development opportunities, and reclaim vacation days.”

Leverage Technology and Automate Where Possible

Technology is playing a significant role in shaping modern legal teams. There are a wide variety of legal tools that can automate administrative tasks, allowing your team to focus on substantial legal problems and concentrate on skill development that can’t be replicated by machines. “So much lawyer work can be spent trying to keep operations functioning instead of focusing on how to develop the skills that can make a difference farther up the job ladder,” says Ortenberg. “Finding opportunities to automate lets your team use their skills in ways that machines can’t.

Crafting a job ladder that embodies clarity, flexibility, equity, and technological innovation is a delicate but essential task. By aligning these principles with an understanding of individual goals, potential biases, and the need for cross-functional collaboration, legal teams can foster an environment that not only meets the immediate demands of the business but also nurtures long-term growth and success. The blueprint for an effective legal team isn’t set in stone; it’s an evolving, living pathway that reflects the complexities and opportunities of our ever-changing world.

Do you want access to the best resources and network for confronting today’s challenges when building your legal team? Apply for membership at TechGC today.

About TechGC

Called “the gold standard for legal peer groups” and “one of the best professional growth investments an in-house attorney can make,” TechGC is an invitation-only community for general counsels and CLOs of high-growth technology companies and leading venture capital funds. Over 2,000 GC members have access to 300+ world-class events per year, a robust online platform where GCs ask and answer pressing questions and share exclusive resources, and industry- and location-based salary survey data.

For more information, visit techgc.co or techgc.co/deputygc

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