Tell us about your current role as a General Counsel…

I’m general counsel with Hi Marley. We are an AI-powered collaboration platform for the insurance ecosystem (so, InsurTech). I’ve been with the company since the start, five years ago. We’ve grown from a handful of people to 90 employees in multiple locations. We’re happy to be backed by Emergence Capital, True Ventures, Underscore VC, Bain Capital Ventures, Brewer Lane Ventures, Greenspring Associates and a few others.

How does your industry background prepare you for the GC role?

Where to start? I worked on Capitol Hill, with a human rights group in Kenya, as a litigator and a corporate attorney with a few great law firms in Silicon Valley, and as a startup co-founder. I’ve been gifted with some unique opportunities. When innovating in a space where nobody has charted the path, the value of diverse experiences—and good friends—is immeasurable.

I’ve learned that good attorneys are smart and competent. Great attorneys live into humility, empathy, keeping trust, being solution-oriented, holding space so others can open up (whether the CEO, the new hire or a client), being a source of calm in a moment of crisis.

Those are the attorneys I want to be like; that’s my north star. I have mentors I look to as examples. I’m still learning and want to grow as a better leader.

Hi Marley’s legal team is “small but mighty,” and I enjoy watching our team grow and influence. We talk a lot about being the “river guides.” No one remembers the rock the raft missed, but everybody remembers the rock that flipped the raft. If we do our job well, nobody may know we did our job well. There’s the quiet pride of professionalism here.

How do the laws and the regulatory landscape affect your role as General Counsel?

One feature of Hi Marley is it allows insurance carriers to offer policyholders and claimants text messaging to streamline communications during the claims process, so our workflows keep in mind TCPA compliance. We also keep a close eye on the insurance regulatory regime, international opportunities, data management, cloud management, CCPA and … the list goes on.

We try to streamline and standardize everything we can with contracts via Salesforce, Ironclad and DocuSign, and equity via Carta. We have a small team at a fast-paced company, and we need to focus on areas where we can add value and build the environment to automate the administrative processes for us.

How do you, as General Counsel, keep your team and business up with the industry changes?

The insurance industry is made up of good companies working hard to fulfill their brand promise to provide confidence and comfort in a moment of crisis. If we can be part of helping carriers get there by solving some of the communication friction – that’s a good thing.

Our point of view is insurance is unique, and we are entirely focused on the insurance ecosystem. Because of this focus, we really believe the industry has a chance to shake off some rust. If we can help, it’ll make the world a better place.

We talk about insurance being “simple, loveable protection.” We are here to help the industry fulfill what it wants to be. When Amica or American Family or ACG or Plymouth Rock look good – we look good. We honestly want to serve well in a complicated space. It’s fun to come alongside carriers to address these challenges.

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

To date, our “small but mighty” legal team has grown from one to three people. One person focuses on legal and business operations and came from a scaling SaaS company. She’ll be chief of staff one day. Another is a generalist who will be general counsel one day. He also came out of big tech and a big law firm.

In hiring, we think about basic skills and smarts – of course.

And then, we look at how the person handles confidentiality. Can they build trusted relationships in the company across functions? Can they have an honest internal debate (where none of us may know the answer)? Can they be innovative while maintaining integrity? Can they adapt across multiple issues? Are they humble enough to know when to bring in outside counsel? Do they treat our outside counsel with honor? Can they be courageous enough to ask the hard questions? Can they put the team first? And can they execute?

If I could wish anything for another GC reading this, it would be to apply The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick Lencioni. I’m still learning. As general counsel, I’m a micro-CEO. I’m responsible for my organizational health. This isn’t taught in law school – and if we do it, it’s fantastic. A healthy legal team can be the happiest team in a company.

Paul Yanosy

Paul is the General Counsel at Hi Marley, an InsurTech startup company with a mission to make insurance more loveable. He has broad experience across sectors, including government, non-profits, growth-stage companies and extensive legal experience, previously serving as General Counsel for a separate company and as an attorney at Wilson Sonsini and Sidley Austin. He attended Duke University and the University of Virginia School of Law.