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

I’m the GC of Ivalua SAS, a privately-held technology company founded 21 years ago in France.  Ivalua is a leading SaaS company for e-procurement.  Our software platform helps the largest companies and organizations in the world to manage their business relationships with their vendors and supply chains.  My career focus has been on fast-growing, late-stage private companies; so when I got the call from Ivalua’s CFO a few years ago, it was the perfect fit.

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

As we are all painfully aware, “supply chain” has become front page news.  So, operating in the field of supplier management means our software is truly mission-critical. This means the bar for legal and compliance – everything from anti-corruption and ethics to sustainability – is extremely high.  “Procurement” has historically been a pretty quiet part of most companies, and one that doesn’t get much fanfare. Now, they are on the front lines trying to manage incredibly complex business challenges in a real-time, data-driven, lawful, and transparent way.   Legal intersects heavily, as our customers (procurement professionals) are highly sophisticated about every aspect of contracting for goods and services, and they are professional negotiators. On top of that, as large enterprises move more towards global, cloud-based services, the legal requirements for data privacy and information security are stringent.  Lastly, because our customers comprise many public sector agencies and companies operated in regulated industries, such as financial services, healthcare, and energy, compliance and business governance are paramount.

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

I’ve worked in enterprise technology for my entire career.  What’s unique at Ivalua is that unlike all other technology solutions that are marketed and sold to various lines of business, like the marketing, engineering, human resources departments, our solution is marketed and sold to the procurement department itself.  Some are lawyers, but many are not – they just know contracts inside and out.  As a result, every single sale of Ivalua’s software involves a member of Ivalua’s legal team taking a hands-on role to craft a complex, long-term agreement between the parties.  This requires a strong partnership between legal and sales, but also between finance, customer support, IT and infosec.

I see the legal team as an important part of our company’s growth.  Our skills and strategies not only help get deals done but also ensure we’ve put in place a solid foundation for long-term, successful partnerships with our customers. We’ve developed a team of versatile, technical, and business-oriented lawyers that can empower our internal clients to get more things done, better and faster.  Now, the task at hand is how to streamline processes to better help scale the business while ensuring the same level of legal support.

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

I’ve always been an extremely curious person, and I thrive on variety.  I love dealing with situations and issues I’ve never encountered and helping people solve hard problems in creative ways. I learn something new every single day.

I’ve always straddled the line between serving in a legal and operational role. I’ve had stints in business development, alliances, venture capital, and HR.  But even when serving in a “purely” legal role such as a General Counsel, deep down I think of myself as a business person who happens to have legal expertise. I’m in a good place when I’m working for a company where that mindset is valued.

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

Get to know how businesses really operate.  Do this by cultivating relationships with colleagues in every department of the company, and listen and learn from them.  Learn their vocabulary and how to speak their language, whether it’s engineering, accounting, or HR-speak.  Be a lawyer that doesn’t “seem like” a lawyer.  Get things done pragmatically, with wisdom and with grace.  Aspire to be recognized as an expert problem-solver and consigliere to your clients and company.

About Ron Vaisbort

Ron has been a Founder, GC to pre-IPO companies, and in-house counsel to numerous high-growth tech startups, with stints at Intel, Toshiba, and Softbank along the way. His expertise is helping companies manage complex business scenarios, including development and commercialization of intellectual property, and building out the legal and compliance function. His passion is helping in-house lawyers become exceptional business leaders.