Every month, we highlight a member of the Ironclad Community and this December, we’re excited to introduce you to Manuel Martinez-Herrera, vice president of legal affairs at BetterCloud, a leading SaaS Operations platform. Martinez-Herrera has 15 years of experience in the legal and compliance fields to drive all legal, compliance and regulatory matters. Previously, Manuel served as Vice President of Legal & Compliance and Corporate Secretary at Namely where he helped the company scale from 200 employees to more than 550.
Could you tell us about your path to law? Was it your dream to become a lawyer?
When I was young I first wanted to be a vet, then a journalist and then to study history. I also liked reading books and speaking in public. Being a lawyer seemed like a good combo of all those things (except being a vet, I guess).
When did you realize you wanted to leave Big Law and go in-house? Would you recommend future lawyers to go the traditional path or go directly in-house?
For me it was a slow realization. I really loved my time at Big Law. I worked at an international firm (White & Case) where I had friends from all over. My partner Don Dowling was an amazing mentor and teacher. But when I was a sixth year and about to get engaged, I started thinking I wanted to see legal life from the other side of the desk and have more control over my work-life balance.
That said, I recommend lawyers to do Big Law first. It’s the best training a young lawyer can get and an opportunity to meet amazing people and work on amazing projects.
How did you find yourself in your role today at BetterCloud?
A friend at BetterCloud told me they were looking for a lawyer. I interviewed here and I was automatically drawn to how awesome and engaging both the CEO and the CFO are. They are both super excited about the business and, more importantly for me, they are genuinely nice people.
What brings you the most satisfaction in your role? What makes you say, “Nailed it!”
I love the feeling when I’m in the subway going home and reflecting on a meeting or an email I wrote where I really helped the business solve a problem through my legal analysis. However, it’s fleeting because I quickly start thinking about the next problem.
What are some of the problems you’re trying to solve in your legal department or business process?
- The massive proliferation of customer contracts and vendor contracts and how to manage them in hyper-growth is definitely a challenge. Ironclad is of great help with that one. Not to mention Dylan, one of my legal interns, who has done an outstanding job implementing the platform!
- How to make sure your team does not get burned out and stays engaged? Making sure you are ahead on hiring and you provide them with the necessary resources (e.g., technology, access to outside counsel, etc.) is key for that one.
- More people, more problems. Making sure you have a good handle on the HR practices of the company and partner closely with HR is very important.
How do you partner with leaders in other parts of the company?
I see the Legal department as a customer-centric organization. We provide services to most (if not all) departments — we are here to listen and help them, solving problems, not creating them. If you approach other leaders with that mentality, you have already won half the battle. Furthermore, when you have to tell them, “No,” they understand it and respect it because you use your “No power” very rarely.
Our values are intent, integrity, drive and empathy. Can you give an example of a value you promote within your legal team? Can you share a story how that was exemplified?
One of my mantras for my teams has always been “Be nice,” even if you feel like strangling someone. After all these years, I have come to realize that understanding the law better than your counterpart will sometimes help you make your point come across, but actually being nice and creating good relationships is actually much more helpful. A few months ago, I was listening to a call between one of the attorneys in my team and a prospective client. At the end of the call, the other attorney told her that it was one of the most pleasant negotiations he had ever had. I couldn’t feel prouder.
What legal trends are you seeing in 2020 that you find particularly exciting and/or interesting?
Working at a tech company you look at the legal world from very specific lenses. The rise of privacy laws like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is very interesting (and challenging). I’m also curious to see how the market and the street will respond to the IPO fiascos we saw this year and how this impacts VC investments.
What would you tell your 25-year-old self?
Relax. Take it easy. There’s time to accomplish all the professional goals you want. You are only 25 once, go have fun! (Which incidentally I did by spending most of that year in Buenos Aires.)
Where would we find you outside of work?
At home playing with my two kids, Jacinta and Teo, walking my dog, Maxi, watching the Nets at Barclays Center or hanging out with my wife, Ashley, and friends in Brooklyn.
What are two things people don’t know about you? Fun facts or secret talents?
I used to skateboard a lot when I was a teenager. Now my daughter has a scooter and I skateboard with her. The funny part is that she sees kids doing crazy tricks and she asks me to do the same (at which point I have to make up a bad excuse).
What book would we find on your nightstand right now?
Right now it is Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday, but the best book I read this year by far was the Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer. I also always have a New Yorker.
What was your favorite moment of 2019? Anything you’re looking forward to in 2020?
The birth of my son Teo! Also our family summer trip to Spain — we spent five amazing days in the northwest of Spain with my uncle Juan and cousins. We then traveled to Sisante, a beautiful little town where my family is from, spending time with my brother and cousins. We are going back for the holidays!
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