Danielle Sheer, chief legal and compliance officer at Commvault, said she encountered some internal resistance a couple months ago when proposing a change in her company’s approach to saving a particular type of clickwrap agreement.
The strong reaction made her question whether she was missing something regarding the cloud storage of electronic contracts in which a party clicks “I Accept.”
So Sheer called a peer general counsel and friend she had made through TechGC, a community platform for legal chiefs at leading venture capital funds and high-growth technology companies.
“In 15 minutes, I had additional thoughts and confidence from a very good sounding board, someone who sits in my seat and thinks about the same sorts of risks and balance for business efficiency,” Sheer told Legal Dive.
Sheer, who is now the global chair of TechGC, said the call was one example of how the strong connections she and others have built through the invitation-only group have propelled their careers forward.
“At the heart of this is bringing GCs together and enabling you to find your people within the community so that you can get better as a general counsel, so that you can grow in your career and so that you can be great,” Sheer said.
Launching the community
TechGC’s creation dates back to 2015, a time when its co-founders Greg Raiten and Kiran Lingam were fairly new general counsel at FirstMark Capital and SeedInvest, respectively, after previously working at large law firms.
In these roles, they experienced firsthand how GCs have many different functional areas under their purview and often field questions from colleagues about a wide variety of topics.
But as leaders of their legal departments, general counsel do not always feel comfortable asking coworkers about areas of law or other issues where they lack expertise.
These realizations prompted Raiten and Lingam to launch TechGC with the goal of providing safe spaces for general counsel and chief legal officers to discuss the different challenges they were confronting in their roles.
“Being a GC is a tough and lonely job because, as the lawyer at the company, your colleagues think you know everything about the law — tax, IP, employment, corporate, etc.,” Raiten told Legal Dive. “But most of us don't know everything, and we feel some degree of imposter syndrome when we're frequently getting questions we don't know the answer to.”
”Then you go to a TechGC event and you're in a room with a bunch of other GCs that are feeling the same way and experiencing similar challenges, and it's really validating and helpful to talk through it,” Raiten said. “That's very powerful.”
Variety of events
TechGC now hosts upwards of 250 events a year where legal chiefs come together.
The group’s bread-and-butter gatherings are dinners hosted in restaurants and focused on hot-button issues facing legal department leaders. These intimate get-togethers were first held in New York, San Francisco and Boston, and have since expanded to a variety of other locations.
TechGC also hosts annual conferences focused on pressing topics, such as IPOs and M&A, for legal chiefs at growing companies.
Andy Dale, an experienced general counsel and chief privacy officer who most recently worked at Alyce, praised TechGC for offering plenty of small group sessions and time for socializing at its conferences.
“I think that allows people to form relationships, and then there's trust,” Dale told Legal Dive. “And when there's trust established, it's easier to kind of pressure-test difficult things.”
Dale, who co-hosts the Data Protection Breakfast Club podcast that TechGC now produces, also credited the group for providing content and events focused on emerging issues of interest to legal leaders.
For example, TechGC hosted a cryptocurrency retreat earlier this year. Raiten said the group’s plans for 2023 entail another crypto retreat, as well as deep-dive industry retreats focused on FinTech and digital health.
Growing the ranks
The growth in the number and types of events TechGC offers has come as its membership has grown to roughly 2,300 legal chiefs.
The group also now has six U.S. chapters and recently launched its first international chapter in London. Raiten said new chapters are likely to be opened soon in metropolitan areas ranging from Atlanta to San Diego.
Additionally, in 2020, TechGC launched a sister group for senior in-house counsel called DeputyGC.
Raiten said the creation of the community was driven by GCs who valued their TechGC experience and wanted there to be a similar offering for deputies. The invitation-only group for senior in-house counsel has already grown to 1,700 members.
Sheer said DeputyGC is one way leaders of TechGC are working to support and mentor those coming up behind them in legal departments.
“Knowing when it's time to transition is critical,” she said. “You have to transition to people who are ready, so one of the things that TechGC does is help get the next generation ready.”
And Raiten said that as these deputy general counsel land their first GC jobs, they are then positioned to seamlessly transition to joining TechGC.