I’m currently serving as the General Counsel and Corporate Secretary at Planful Inc.
Planful (formerly Host Analytics Inc.) is the pioneer of end-to-end financial close, consolidation, and financial planning & analysis (FP&A) cloud software. The Planful platform is used by finance departments around the globe to streamline business-wide planning, budgeting, consolidations, reporting, and visual analytics.
Planful reached out to me shortly after the original company Host Analytics got acquired by Vector Capital. They needed a GC to build the legal function within the organization. Prior to me joining, the company never had an in-house legal department for the whole twenty years of the company existing. There were a lot of challenges associated with the role and I was hired to both clean up and build up.
Our primary focus is financial data, which is highly sensitive to both public and private companies. With that come the unique challenges and risks around confidentiality, data protection and security. Another interesting aspect of our industry is that legal and finance work hand in hand on risk mitigation. So, in a way the legal department has a shared mindset with finance, which allows us to have a unique insight into our buyer’s perspective.
The primary challenge that our industry faces is that there is a big range of offerings out there catering to different generations and types of buyers, which makes it challenging to differentiate between various offerings. There are legacy tools that are highly customizable,have familiar look and feel, butl are difficult to implement and even more difficult to transition off from. There are also a lot of new and exciting tools with AI and ML functionalities, which cater to modern finance departments, but have somewhat of a learning curve for new users to get full value of the product. If you are on the market to get a financial planning platform, it can be overwhelming to determine what’s right for your unique team and company.
There are three key ways in which legal is unique and is at the core of every company’s culture.
A. Legal is one of the most cross functional and interactive functions within the organization. At its best, it can act as a glue between multiple areas of the business. It can help break the silos, shine light on problem areas, and improve collaboration across the organization.
B. Legal’s key expertise is in risk management with the emphasis on management, not elimination. When we educate and train our business clients, we always emphasize that our role is to provide guardrails, not roadblocks for the business. Risk can seem ambiguous at times and executives may struggle with multiple short term and long term objectives, which sometimes appear to contradict each other. These are the times, when legal gets to truly demonstrate its value. We know how to perform a risk analysis, break down the options, and propose risk effective solutions.
C. Legal helps the organization to maintain its reputation and operate in a responsible and ethical manner. While larger organizations often get the luxury of having a separate ethics function, smaller companies often rely on legal, finance, and HR to steer the course and implement policies, processes, and training that are necessary to build an ethical organization that employees are proud to work at.
I love being a corporate officer with a law degree. That is how I currently perceive myself and I believe that with enough experience and engagement I can transition out of the purely legal role into a larger scope strategic/operational role. No immediate plans, as I have yet a lot to accomplish as a GC, but definitely something I would like to entertain eventually.
I think it’s very important for in house lawyers to recognize that we are often hired to cut costs and put scalable processes in place. Demonstrating how you think in terms of your business value will get you noticed. It is also very important to understand how your company likes to communicate, present, plan, and operate. Each company is different, and the goal is to try to speak the language of the company you are at. Prior to trying to improve, fix, and elevate the company to the next level, you need to establish a line of communication and trust. Otherwise, you won’t break through the silo and won’t get to be the business partner you strive to be.