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

I am the General Counsel of Red Canary, a Denver-based managed detection and response company.  We offer a B2B SaaS platform that analyzes telemetry from endpoints (servers and devices), cloud workloads, and identity and SaaS applications to detect and stop malicious activity.  It’s backed by real people that investigate and confirm the threats identified by our software.

I was lucky enough to hear from a friend that Red Canary was looking to hire their first lawyer.  I enjoyed the job I had then but I had done the “first GC” thing before and really enjoyed it, so I figured I’d talk to them.

Fast forward a few weeks and once I’d learned about the innovative technology, the culture, the leadership team’s philosophy, and the loyal customers, I realized this was a once-in-a-career opportunity.  I went from “they’ll really need to wow me for me to leave this job” to “I’ll jump out the window if I don’t get that job.”

Happily I got the job of course, and two years later my department has tripled in size (easier to do when you start with just yourself).

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

Cybersecurity is a fascinating industry.  It’s growing and changing so quickly, and everyone is still learning how best to do it.

I think it’s unique how the concept of trust is so central to our industry, and particularly our company.  Given that we can be the last line of defense protecting a customer from a breach, we could easily market ourselves as “buy us or you will get breached!”.  But instead, we prefer to explain ourselves as a trusted ally.  That means, for instance, that we are very transparent with our customers–letting them know if we didn’t live up to our own standards, even if they wouldn’t have known had we not told them.  That can seem risky at first blush, but experience has taught me that building trust is one of the best risk mitigation tools we have.

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

It’s important to me that we in the legal department aren’t perceived, and don’t perceive ourselves, as being above or apart from the rest of the business.  Patience, respect, humility, humor, and a thirst for understanding are so very important.  When our colleagues see us as helpers–people who can help them get done or get through difficult things–that has a tremendous effect on what we can accomplish.  Colleagues come to us to “confess” things that went wrong, because they know we won’t judge them and will help make it right.  I love that.  It’s so gratifying to see that we can support and amplify our company’s culture, even in times of stress.

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

I love my job.  I really do.  It challenges and tests me on so many different levels, playing to my strengths but also making me face and work on my weaknesses.  I honestly can’t imagine what else I would want to do professionally.  There is constant variety in my day, and the job keeps changing as we grow and expand into new areas, our industry evolves, new laws get passed, and my pop-culture references get more and more outdated.

In terms of career goals, I’d be most happy if one day I could see that former members of my department were now GCs in their own right, happily challenged just like I am.

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

Be curious, be yourself, and be open to new opportunities, even if they don’t fit into the vision you originally had for yourself.  Put together, that means that you ask questions and work hard to understand (even if you’re worried that it will expose your ignorance), you try on the confidence to let your personality show, and you take creative risks for the sake of professional and personal growth.  It’s not a bad recipe for happiness in general, really.”

About Matt Spohn

Matt Spohn is General Counsel with Red Canary, Inc., a Denver-based provider of B2B SaaS cybersecurity solutions. Previously he was General Counsel with the banking software company Avoka, operating in the US, UK, and Australia. Matt also has over 15 years’ experience in private practice, most recently at a global law firm handling tech contracts, data privacy, and cybersecurity matters.