GC Fireside

TechGC chats with Renée Hunter, General Counsel of Notarize

Renée Hunter
April 7, 2022

Tell us about your current role as a General Counsel...

I serve as the General Counsel at Notarize, the leader in remote online notarization. We use modern technology to connect consumers and organizations to notary services 24/7. 

What’s great about Notarize is that we are not tied to one specific industry - notarizations are required in almost all industries and are linked to many of life’s most important moments. Additionally, Notarize operates within its own regulated industry built upon an innovative legal framework permitting the notaries in more than 30 states and counting to perform remote online notarizations. 

As General Counsel, I oversee multiple functional areas composed of several dozen team members. These functional areas include your traditional legal teams like commercial transactions, IP, and corporate matters, as well as others like public affairs, compliance, risk and examination, and data protection teams. 

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

Notarize’s roots are in the real estate industry, where I spent the bulk of my legal career before coming on board. I joined Notarize with first-hand knowledge of remote online notarizations laws, having played a part in developing the concept. This knowledge allowed me to hire the right team to serve our existing customers and have a strong awareness of what would be needed to continue our growth. My experience working at larger established companies allowed me to see the big picture and create a team and strategy capable of taking on a heavily regulated industry and customers worldwide. I knew early on that remote online notarization was much bigger than the real estate industry, and I built a team that has been able to drive into new categories such as the auto sector and financial services.

As we continue to grow, I will redirect my focus from growth to honing my skills as a strategist, transitioning into a Chief Legal Officer role guiding the company as we focus on what comes after online notarization, Notarize 2.0. - if you will.

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

I’ve already mentioned remote online notarization (RON) laws, but it’s worth highlighting again. RON laws are traditionally passed at the state level, and they authorize a state’s commissioned notaries to perform remote online notarizations. As we look to work with businesses and independent notaries in all 50 states, these laws are essential to our growth. When I joined Notarize, around 13 states had passed RON laws. Today that number is closer to 40. At first, this was something I was helping to manage along with our CEO. We quickly realized that we would need a full-service public affairs team to work with governments at all levels across all 50 states and federally to advance the issue of online notarizations. Within my first year as General Counsel, one of my first hires was an EVP of Public Affairs to grow a team under the legal vertical. 

As a technology company, Notarize maintains compliance with all applicable state cybersecurity and privacy laws where we do business. This required a significant investment, so we built a full-service information security team. Privacy and data protection are constantly evolving; they simultaneously react to and shape the world around us. They are two critical disciplines for any legal professional to be aware of, whether they are in technology or not. With Notarize being a trusted technology provider, these are more than just “areas of the law”; they are a way of life. 

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

One of the more unique things about Notarize is that it exists today because of innovations in the law. As we continue to grow and identify new growth areas, we will work with our industry and government partners to identify new opportunities for innovation. Before Notarize pushed to advance online notarization, people couldn't imagine a world where notarization wasn't on paper. As we venture into new industries, we often have to start from the ground floor, educating our partners that moving from a paper world to a digital one is possible and legal.

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

During the pandemic, we saw an abrupt demand for online notarizations. As a result, our legal team went from two people to a couple of dozen virtually overnight. I intentionally hired experienced, well-seasoned professionals to lead and build out key verticals and not necessarily generalists. 

I have seen many leaders fail in the past because they let their own experience and number of years in the profession hold them back from letting go and hiring a team. I was determined not to make the same mistake. In some ways, given the breakneck speed that Notarize was growing, I did not have a choice. We needed to grow. I knew that I didn't have the time to hold anyone's hands or micromanage them - but I also knew I couldn't do it alone. I needed a qualified team ASAP. If you are hiring green talent out of fear that someone with more talent will take your job, you are in the wrong place.

Renée Hunter
Renée Hunter serves as General Counsel at Notarize. Renée helps to enable the widespread adoption of Notarize’s products across all 50 states. Renée leads Notarize’s legal, public affairs, regulatory compliance, privacy, cybersecurity, and risk management teams and is responsible for foundational legal and compliance strategy to ensure Notarize is expanding in a responsible manner. Before joining Notarize, Renée served as General Counsel of Nexsys Technologies a technology company based in Detroit, where she began her public policy work on online notarizations while building the company's policies and compliance practices.