Tell us about your current role as a Legal Director… 

With a team of deal professionals, I lead investment, M&A and fund formation transactions at SoftBank Group International, international investing arm of the global technology investment holding company SoftBank Group Corp. (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 9984).

How does your industry background prepare you for the Legal Director role?

Starting my legal career at Morrison & Foerster LLP (MoFo) in Palo Alto, learning the nuts and bolts of startup financing, M&A and private equity fund formation work, after studying business economics in undergrad and law and economics in law school, has proven to be incredibly useful in my current role that regularly involves negotiating principal economic terms alongside legal issues that used to, as outside counsel, be directed to the client to provide a view and instructions.

When the first-ever global Chief Legal Officer of SoftBank and the current General Counsel of SoftBank Group International each joined from MoFo, they recruited me to help build out and lead the transactional legal department, focusing on investments, M&A and funds, given SoftBank’s increasing investment activity in the technology space.

How, as a legal professional, do you need outside-the-box solutions to handle some of the challenges?

Being challenged to come up with bespoke solutions to new issues is a regular occurrence at a firm as active and demanding as SoftBank.  Being able to identify changes to deal dynamics and objectives, and adapting in real time, are critically important as a legal professional focused on closing deals while preserving and enhancing value.  

Where do you see your industry going in the coming years?  What changes do you anticipate and how are you and your team gearing up for those changes?

In the venture and growth equity space, down rounds and recapitalizations may increase in frequency over the near term so it is important to understand your options to both preserve value and capture upside both as a counsel to an investor looking to deploy, and a company looking to raise, capital in today’s environment.

How do you build a legal team? How do you hire?

Diversity of backgrounds, educations, experiences and perspectives is one of the most important things we look for in recruiting legal talent.  With that, our collaborative legal team is able to dynamically think outside the box, partnering with investment professionals, to solve problems and achieve the firm’s strategic objectives.  We have hired and look to hire both generalists and specialists, depending on the firm’s needs at the time and the composition of our existing legal team.

On hiring and team building, especially during the pandemic, training and mentorship can be difficult while working remotely but it is important to dedicate time and resources to this to progress both as a team and as individual contributors.

About Chris McKinnon

Chris is a corporate attorney with expertise in investments, M&A and fund transactions. He is Legal Director at SoftBank and started his legal career at Morrison & Foerster in Palo Alto. He lives in the Bay Area and likes finding hiking trails to explore with his dogs.