Tell us about your background as a General Counsel and current career status…

I’m currently working at BetterCloud. BetterCloud is a B2B SaaS platform that allows the IT & Security teams of our clients to discover, manage and secure their SaaS applications. “Discover” helps them find SaaS applications that are being used in their environment without having been sanctioned by their IT teams; “Manage” allows IT teams to easily onboard, offboard and make other mid-cycle changes for their end users across the SaaS applications they use; “Secure” allows IT & Security to have peace of mind that, for example, there are no publicly shared documents that should be private or that include sensitive information and, if there are, the platform takes action to remediate the policy infringement.

A friend of mine that used to work with me at my prior company (Namely) moved to BetterCloud. We kept in touch and at one point he called me to tell me that BetterCloud was looking to hire their first lawyer. I sat down and chatted with the CEO and CFO and immediately fell in love with their personality (they are nice good-hearted people and not a-holes; how refreshing ;)) and their philosophy as to how to run the company. The rest is history; well, very local history but history.

How does your industry help define your role as General Counsel?

BetterCloud, as many other tech companies, processes some personal data of its customers. As we all know, over the last decades privacy laws and regulations have been on the rise. I’m originally from Spain. The EU was one of the first regions to have comprehensive privacy laws and to treat privacy as a fundamental right. I totally agree with that view as our data is, these days, a very important asset. I also applaud how my fellow Europeans have one law (GDPR) applying to the whole region. The challenge we face in the US is that different states are issuing different laws (think CCPA/CPRA in CA, new laws in VA, CO, etc.) which ends up creating a regulatory patchwork that is hard to comply with. This view might not be popular among other GCs but I’d definitely welcome a US federal privacy law setting a standard for the whole country “a la GDPR.”

How do you feel the General Counsel should act as a business partner?

I’m not sure I’d have said this a few years ago but being a lawyer at a company is such a gift. You are involved in almost every aspect of what’s going on and you have the skills to help with all those areas. As a lawyer in a rapidly growing tech company, you can almost charter your path or at least I have been fortunate at BetterCloud to do that. Yes you are the lawyer but if you are good at your job. you are just seen by the Board and the C-Suite as someone they trust who provides smart advice and can get stuff (or something else that starts with an “s”) done. That gives you the freedom to take on other areas that are not purely legal.

For example, I’m the executive sponsor for D&I at BetterCloud. Almost two years ago as an executive team we realized that we had a void there. We needed someone from the leadership team pushing forward D&I. I raised my hand and David – our CEO – trusted me with that mission. Covid is another good example. When the pandemic hit there was no natural owner to manage it. Should it be Security? People team? Legal? Once again, Legal raised its hand (I might have thought twice about it had I known it was going to be a never-ending assignment :)) and as we are known for being good at organizing and managing multidisciplinary teams we got the mandate to lead the task force. Deal Desk is another function under Legal’s purview. In many organizations it is part of Sales Ops or Finance but at BetterCloud we saw so many synergies between the two teams that we thought they should live under the same house and it has, so far, been very successful.

Other good examples are Real Estate, corporate insurance, etc. Areas that might not be a super natural fit for Legal but that if you are intellectually curious and want to look beyond regulations and codes become fun ways to expand your expertise.

Because we have our hands in so many different projects and areas, I sincerely believe that the Legal team is composed of culture ambassadors. We as a team interact daily with almost every team at the company and are known for embodying the company’s values. In addition, many of the team members are also active members of our Diversity Council or ERGs.

How do you see the professional growth trajectory as a General Counsel?

Well, if I had the choice I’d run a bookstore. That’d be my dream job. To spend my days surrounded by books, reading and talking to customers that want to read. Now, more realistically in the short term I do see myself being a lawyer at least for a number of years but a lawyer that also has under his purview other areas of the business that are not purely legal as I do enjoy a lot the business-side of the house. In the future, I could see myself taking a more operational role as I believe lawyers are really good at organizing projects and bringing them to fruition. A career purely focused on D&I is also something that I’d consider and that I think I’d enjoy. But yeah, I hope you all come one day to my bookstore!

What is the best advice you can give for In-House Counsel?

I’d tell them the same I tell my team. Exceptional lawyers don’t know the answer to everything right away but they know how to get there (by calling the right person, by finding it themselves, by showing that the question is not relevant, etc.). Exceptional lawyers understand, as well as engineers do, the product their businesses sell. Exceptional lawyers care. That means that their internal customers know they are there with them for the whole journey, they are part of the same team. Exceptional lawyers think hard and through every possible alternative before saying “No” because they understand the power of “No.” If you do that, your colleagues will understand and respect you when you say “No”. And more importantly than all of the above, exceptional lawyers are exceptional human beings. They treat everybody with the same level of respect from the most junior to the most senior person at the company and always try to empathize.

About Manuel Martinez-Herrera

Manuel Martinez-Herrera serves as BetterCloud’s General Counsel where he leads the teams in charge of legal, deal desk, COVID-response and real estate. In addition, he is the Executive Sponsor for D&I at BetterCloud. Manuel has been practicing law for more than 15 years including stints in Barcelona, Madrid, Buenos Aires, and New York. Before BetterCloud, Manuel was the VP of Legal at Namely where he headed legal and compliance. Manuel spent most of his formative years as an associate at White & Case, a leading global law firm, where his practice focused on counseling multinational employers on cross-border human resources and data privacy issues. Manuel loves pencils, Roberto Bolaño novels, and cookies.