How this GC built legal function and prepared for IPO all at once
Being the sole GC in a start-up company can be intimidating but provides unparalleled opportunities to build the legal capabilities from scratch, according to The Iconic GC.
Marina Mitrevski, general counsel and company secretary, joined online fashion retailer The Iconic in 2018 as its only lawyer when it was a fledgling six-year-old start-up company.
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The Iconic now has three members in its legal team, including a legal counsel and legal operations specialist, along with Ms Mitrevski.
While she joined the retailer to build its legal function, Ms Mitrevski was tasked with assisting The Iconic’s parent company Global Fashion Group with its IPO three months into her role.
For instance, Ms Mitrevski not only oversees legal governance, regulatory compliance, legal risk, and legal operations, she also provides advice on design rights and manufacturing for the fashion retailer.
She also provides advice on consumer law and competition law to support category management, which is the team responsible for curating the assortment of brands the company sells on site.
Alongside this, she supports her team in corporate matters, including the people and culture team, and the company’s policies around diversity and inclusion (including their Reconciliation Action Plan).
Starting from scratch is enriching
Ms Mitrevski noted that while being the sole GC at a start-up company is daunting, it provides in-house lawyers with more opportunities to contribute to the company's business strategy, direction, and success, enabling them to demonstrate their value proposition.
“I feel that it is certainly a more enriching experience.
“On the other hand, if you’re joining bigger in-house teams, a lot of the time things have already been built or been done in a certain way,” she explained.
However, working in start-up companies could pose challenges for some in-house lawyers, particularly those who prefer to use templates that have already been designed.
In these circumstances, it is critical for GCs to acknowledge that they may not be armed with all the answers and be willing to reach out for support.
“Sometimes as lawyers we’re not great at standing back and saying we don’t know the answer to something, and that we need time before coming back with an answer,” Ms Mitrevski said.
“If I don’t know the answer to something, I reassure everyone that I’ll come back to them with an answer. It’s just a constant cycle of fact-finding, gathering information, and validating certain things with other teams.”
Building a business case and a growth trajectory for the start-up team is also a vital component of the role. The lawyer has to be able to explain the current state of play of the business, identify existing and emerging risks, and explain the impact and value that a broader legal team could deliver, Ms Mitrevski added.
She encouraged GCs to remain curious, ask questions, be willing to learn, unlearn, and relearn, and seek mentoring opportunities in the profession or through formal mentoring programs.
Moreover, being versatile and able and willing to adapt to change is critical in a fast-paced start-up companies.
“My other tip is for GCs to try and build a community around you by joining industry associations or inviting guest speakers from other companies to speak at your team meetings because if you’re working on your own in an in-house team, you might not have anybody to bounce ideas with,” Ms Mitrevski concluded.
To hear more from Marina Mitrevski about how GCs could turbocharge a start-up company’s bold ambitions, come along to the 2022 Corporate Counsel Summit in May.
Click here to book your tickets and don’t miss out!