Unlocking Success in In-House Legal Roles: Lessons from Doug Luftman, ex-DGC @DocuSign

Episode summary

Introduction: 00:00

  • A brief intro to Doug’s career, spanning roles like GC, DGC, and Chief Privacy Officer.
  • His shift from hardware to the software as a service (SaaS) industry, and the evolution within the industry.

Positioning yourself for legal executive roles: 03:24 

  • Focusing on developing a broad skill set, refining specialties, and effectively communicating with executive stakeholders.
  • The need to balance risk, opportunity, and innovation as an in-house lawyer.

How to choose which company to work for to maximize growth: 05:17 

  • Looking beyond the company name and reputation.
  • The importance of a great company culture and supportive managers in fostering professional development and growth.
  • The significance of transparency, empathy, and mutual respect within teams, especially in challenging times such as the pandemic.

Building a legal team with a focus on mentorship: 09:55

  • Building teams with a focus on collegiality, professional growth, and mentorship.
  • Seeking mentorship from various sources, including managers, colleagues, CEOs, and board members, to gain different perspectives and insights.
  • The significance of continuous self-improvement, genuine curiosity, and giving back through mentorship in cultivating a successful legal career.

Key considerations for success in in-house legal roles: 13:53 

  • Success in in-house legal roles goes beyond titles and executive positions, focusing on personal motivation and fulfillment.
  • Factors influencing motivation include company growth, industry dynamics, executive team sophistication, and resource availability.
  • Understanding market trends and seeking mentorship from experienced professionals to make informed career choices in terms of specializing in one industry or exploring different sectors.

Why titles and reporting structures matter, and what to look for: 18:18 

  • Do titles and reporting structures in legal roles matter? What can you tell from the role and who it reports into?
  • Understanding expectations and aligning career goals with the title and reporting structure.
  • Assessing the perception and responsibility associated with the role during interviews.

Building trust and collaborating as a legal leader: 21:44 

  • Building trust and cross-functional partnerships.
  • Actively engaging with teams, understanding their needs, and not being stuck in an ivory tower of ‘no’.
  • Applying legal advice in a practical and business-oriented manner to bridge the gap between legal and other functions.

Identifying business needs and connecting the dots between gaps: 24:13

  • How Doug expanded legal’s role at DocuSign to include government affairs, compliance, and privacy to address specific business needs.
  • Centralizing compliance and privacy and bringing it under legal.
  • Seeing cross-functionally within the organization, and taking ownership over areas that may not necessarily fall under legal purview.

The evolution and the future of legal tech: 33:04 

  • Legal tech as a competitive advantage for companies.
  • Enabling faster decision-making through tech adoption.

Managing and retaining top legal talent: 35:40 

  • Fostering a positive team environment and empowering your team. 
  • Surrounding oneself with rockstar team members for success.
  • Balancing tactical assignments and strategic opportunities.
  • Driving effective communication and providing feedback.

Advice for lawyers impacted by lay-offs: 39:43 

  • Coping with unexpected career transitions and recognizing that layoffs are not personal.
  • Seeking support from your network.
  • Embracing the journey and viewing career transitions as opportunities for personal growth and self-reflection.
  • Using this time to engage in hobbies, learn new skills, and seek educational opportunities.
  • Maintaining a positive mindset and embracing the potential for new and better opportunities ahead.
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Tyler Finn
Head of Community & Growth, SpotDraft
Doug Luftman
ex-Deputy General Counsel DocuSign

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