Heidi Padawer Garfield is Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary at Shutterstock, Inc. Andy Hart recently sat down with Heidi to discuss her toolkit for serving clients, leveraging technology for her legal department, and how the simple act of being nice has advanced her career.
Andy: As Shutterstock’s general counsel, what is the most challenging part of your job?
Heidi: I am operating on all cylinders all the time. I get a range of questions daily, from the most basic questions about our core products, to complex questions about esoteric legal issues. The challenge is being able to immediately and often comprehensively respond to questions where I don’t have a body of knowledge and I am working with new or limited facts.
Andy: What do you do when you get an important question from your executive team and it is not necessarily in your wheelhouse?
Heidi: The first thing I try to do is educate myself through readily available resources. I am also fortunate that we have a diverse in-house team with quite a few subject matter experts and we are usually able to collaborate to complete our knowledge base. I also find that many questions I get from the executive team are based on what they’re seeing in our industry, the marketplace or the news. To preempt those types of questions, I try to make sure that I'm reading the same things that my stakeholders are reading, and that I am always thinking about how current events will affect Shutterstock. And, of course, outside counsel can usually always offer subject matter experts on particularly demanding or thorny issues.
Andy: What trends are you seeing in the digital content world?
Heidi: What is most interesting is the type of content people are using, where they are getting it, and how they are using it. Shutterstock publishes a creative trends report annually that is always fun to read. As a legal observer, it’s also interesting to see how the licenses we grant and scope of rights have evolved to match customer needs and the trends in the marketplace.
Andy: How has technology shaped the way you practice at Shutterstock?
Heidi: One of my goals for my team is to be proactive and not reactive. In that regard, technology is the best tool that we have. For example, tools that help us keep our contracts organized and create a process for our stakeholders to perform in a self-serve environment can be game changing. There is so much room for improvement in terms of how we interact with our stakeholders and technology is how we get there.
Andy: How did your time working in private practice prepare you for your current role as GC?
Heidi: The tools that I got from private practice — and more notably the skills I developed as a very young attorney at Sidley — are the ones that inform how I interact with my stakeholders. I no longer do 10 hours of research on a single topic or write 10-page memos but those experiences taught me how to distill complex information in a business-friendly way. I use those skills all day, every day. I firmly believe that an in-house lawyer who can engage stakeholders without sounding like a lawyer will be more popular than the alternative.
Andy: What is your proudest achievement as a lawyer?
Heidi: Becoming general counsel at Shutterstock.
Andy: Good answer.
Heidi: It's the truth.
Andy: What advice do you give to younger lawyers?
Heidi: Try new things in your legal practice, be well read, and always be able to give an elevator pitch. If you know enough to engage with someone, that is the starting point for a great conversation that could open every other door. And for anyone who wants to work in-house, my advice is to be business-friendly first and foremost. Don't come in and say, “I'm here to tell you about employment law.” Let your client tell you about the product, the business, the customers, et cetera, and then start issue-spotting. Talk about the issue in terms the business will understand and offer a legal solution that fits within the context of the business. And, finally, be nice! Being nice to many people over the years has opened more doors for me than anything else. Plus, I’ve made a lot of good friends and it makes going to work more fun.
Andy: In your career, have you had a particular mentor that you have relied upon?
Heidi: I have had a number of mentors over the years who have coached me through phases of my career, starting from long before I went to law school, and through all of my professional stops along the way. I’m also so fortunate that many of my managers have been kind people, generous with their time and committed to helping develop my professional skills. Those relationships are invaluable and I certainly aspire to provide that to people with whom I work in any capacity.
Andy: When you have downtime, understanding that it is probably limited, what do you like to do?
Heidi: I love to hang out with my kids and husband (that is probably the first answer that I’m required by law to give). I have done a few triathlons, which I enjoy. I love being outside in whatever capacity. I also like cooking and, when I can find the time, reading. Right now, I am reading Brightness Falls by Jay McInerney. There is one other set of reading material on my nightstand: a primer for a new general counsel of a publicly traded company, which you provided for me when I first became general counsel. That is invaluable, both because of the substantive information, and because it can help put me to sleep.
Published September 2017
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