Carbonite is pleased to announce that Danielle Sheer, Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, is being recognized this week by Massachusetts Lawyer's Weekly as a "2017 In-House Leader." Sheer will receive the award, which honors her outstanding professional accomplishments, at a ceremony on Thursday from 5:30-8:00 pm at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel.
During her eight-year tenure as Carbonite’s chief legal officer, Carbonite went from a private company to a NASDAQ-listed company, grew from $19 million in revenue to over $200 million in revenue, and from 100 employees to now more than 1,000 employees globally.
I recently caught up with Sheer to find out how it feels to win such a prestigious award, and to get her best advice for up-and-comers who want to pursue a career as in-house legal counsel. Here are some excerpts from that conversation:
How did it feel when you found out you were being honored as a 2017 In-House Leader?
Sheer: I was surprised! About a week after I received the call, I learned that a fellow public company General Counsel whom I greatly respect had nominated me. Being supported in this way by colleagues is a great honor.
What advice do you have for a growing business that is planning to build an in-house legal team? What do they need to know to be successful?
Sheer:Adding the right in-house legal team early can accelerate management's vision, build the foundation for the future, and offer daily practical, actionable advice to the business.
If I were giving advice to a company's first in-house team I'd start with this: Get to know your clients. Your client is the company, represented by every single employee, the board and the company's shareholders. Here's what I did, and continue to do, as the business changes and my clients’ needs develop:
- Get your house in order before offering to help in other areas. Check that the corporate records are in excellent shape, upgrade the board interactions and records, and ensure the company has appropriate protections in place (employee confidentiality, patents and trademarks protections, D&O indemnification, customer privacy, corporate risk reviews, etc.)
- Diligence the company as if you were a potential acquirer and create an issues list of items in need of TLC.
- Listen and learn from others. What does the CEO want to accomplish this year, and in the next three years? What is important to the CFO? Where is there need for scaling in systems and teams? Meet with business unit chiefs. Where do they face obstacles? Meet with employees from every department and at every different level. What is their day like? Do they understand how their role supports the Company vision? If they have direct contact with customers, listen in on those interactions to get the straight story. Learn how teams are organized and tasked.
- Go back to the issues list initially created, add to it from your listening sessions, and prioritize. The items that rise to the top should be the ones that will be most beneficial for the company and its shareholders.
- Then get to work! Enlist the support of all the people you've met along the way.
What’s the best piece of advice you have for young students or legal professionals who hope to pursue a career as in-house legal counsel in the future?
Sheer: I have a promising young talent on my team today who began his career in shipping and receiving and product fulfillment. He had no prior legal experience, but he knew how to bring a product to market. That's invaluable experience. Today, he is part of our contracts management team helping his business partners bring our products to customers globally, and he's brilliant at it.
There is no one right path to in-house counsel. My advice is to choose to study and work at what interests you. Stick with a job for several years so you can really learn the ins and outs of the role and the company, and so you can learn to live and thrive through change—that's an immensely valuable life lesson and as it turns out, a pretty important skill for in-house counsel too.
To attend the award ceremony this Thursday, please contact Lindsay Rice at Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.