Thentia at a glance:
What they do: An industry-leading govtech platform built for regulators, by regulators.
Company Size: 51-200 employees
Headquarter Location: Toronto, Ontario
Becoming CLO and GC
It’s my honor to share another installment in our GC Spotlight series, in which we share stories and advice from in-house legal professionals from across industries and backgrounds—this time with Natasha Giuffre, Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel of Thentia.
With a background spanning litigation, mortgage fraud, ethics, contracting, and more, Natasha’s story is a reminder that a successful GC can come from any area of practice (and, sometimes, one GC may come from many areas of practice themself).
Natasha had lots of invaluable advice to share on taking risks, making mistakes, and making connections—and how each of them can make you more successful in your role.
Let’s get to it.
Natasha, could you describe your path to becoming a General Counsel at Thentia?
I wish I could say that I set a goal to become General Counsel and Chief Legal Officer many years ago, and that I took a series of strategic and well-planned steps to get here. But that is not the case – my career path has followed anything but a straight line.
I started my career as a litigator, performing solely criminal defence work. It was a fast-paced, high-adrenaline decade in my life where I was fortunate to learn so many skills: negotiation, time management, stress management, client management, and persuasion, to name but a few. But the job required me to be in court every day, meet with clients in the evenings, and visit jails on the weekends. It didn’t leave a lot of extra time. I was fine with that lifestyle until I had children – one with special needs – and found I needed more balance in my life.
As I worked, I decided to pursue my LLM, and taught various legal subjects at the college level. This mix of practical experience and academia led me to a position at the Law Society of Ontario (which regulates lawyers and paralegals in Ontario, Canada), first in licensing and accreditation, and eventually as a prosecutor of lawyer and paralegal misconduct. It was in this role that I expanded my legal subject matter knowledge through exposure to several diverse areas such as mortgage fraud, ethics, contracts, money laundering and business organizations. After some time, exposure to these different areas of law motivated me to look for another legal challenge, and that’s when the opportunity to join Thentia as a subject matter expert (SME) in regulation arose.
I really wasn’t sure what my future would be with Thentia at the time. I had very little exposure to start-ups and didn’t know much about govtech, but I was immediately hooked. I found myself working with so many super smart and driven people from all over North America and the UK and realized that I had unknowingly been training for the position of General Counsel my whole career. All of the skills that I learned in the varied experiences I had throughout my career were critical for the role and helped me find my fit with Thentia as GC.
I see you received a promotion in title (congratulations!). What was the driver for that promotion? Any tips to others aspiring to get promoted internally to General Counsel?
Thanks so much! I can’t say there was one driver, but a number of important factors that contributed, and all at the right time. I had been working with Thentia for a time, and Thentia had not yet filled an internal legal position. The company was in the middle of a complex contract negotiation that required coordination internally and had a lot of moving parts. I stepped in to assist and the contracting concluded well. During that transaction, I found that I had inadvertently auditioned for the role I now have. Looking back, I think I probably assumed the role without anyone realizing it, including myself.
As I review how things fell into place, my advice for aspiring GCs is twofold:
- First, become a sponge. Soak up as much diverse knowledge as you can. Attend meetings with different business groups and stakeholders (internally and externally). Attend continuing legal education programming and read legal publications. It’s called practicing law because it requires practice and life-long learning, which are both critical for the GC role.
- Second, take chances. Anecdotally, I think legal practitioners are generally risk averse – it comes with the job. But even as a lawyer, it’s important to step outside of one’s comfort zone to try new things and be part of new experiences. It was this point that brought me to Thentia in the first place.
You joined Thentia early and it's growing fast. Any advice to others who are the first in-house legal hire for a rapidly growing company and who's feeling lost and overwhelmed?
First and foremost, you’re not alone. There are highs and lows, and the two are probably at extremes. But I’ve learned a few lessons that have really helped me settle into my role. Here are my top three:
- First, don’t feel you need to know everything. As GC you will never have the answer to every legal question. It’s totally fine to not know everything, and in those moments, it’s important to ask for help.
- This is probably a good segue into my second tip, which is to surround yourself with a strong group of knowledgeable people that you can go to for help when you need it. Half the battle is knowing the right person to ask for legal advice in complex situations where you need specific expertise.
- And this corresponds directly with my third tip – grow your social network. On those truly busy days, the idea of attending a lunch and learn or surfing LinkedIn probably seems like a luxury that you can’t afford. But think of it as an investment. Connecting with others, establishing your own community of friends, mentors, and experts, provides a return on your investment that you can cash in on, on those days that you are feeling the most overwhelmed.
Want more insights into a career in legal leadership? Check out our previous installments in the GC Spotlight series with Jason Knapp, Chief Legal Officer of InMarket, and Brie Buchanan, General Counsel of Relay Payments.
Want to dive even deeper? Download the GC Playbook for additional career tips.