Steven Hennig is Senior Counsel with Shopify's Commercial Group. This group of lawyers provides guidance and support to internal clients across most of Shopify's global service and product lines. Throughout his career, Steven’s professional focus has been the intersection of technology and the law. Steven started his legal career in-house at a Canadian software company, and moved on to work as an associate in McCarthy Tétrault's Technology and Outsourcing Group.
Outside of work, Steven runs both short and long distances very slowly, all while taking sneakers far too seriously. He faces his toughest negotiations at home with his three year old daughter.
Why did you decide to become an In-House Counsel?
"Before my tour of Big Law, I actually started my career in-house at a software company in Kanata, outside of Ottawa. To be honest, I was exceptionally lucky. I found great mentors and role models in my very first law job who showed me what in-house work could be at its best. Ultimately, the reason I stay in-house is the opportunity to address really interesting business problems from beginning to end. "
Is the role of In-House Counsel changing? And if yes, how so?
"Yes. Over time, the expectations for in-house counsel have grown. I think there is increased pressure on in-house counsel to push legal costs down and take on more complicated work. In my own experience, I've also seen a greater integration of legal and business teams. It can be a challenge, especially coming from outside, to reframe legal risk into business risk, but I think this is a critical success factor. I view my own role as being a business facilitator. I still need to understand the legal risks, but a big part of my job is helping the business mitigate those risks without adding a drag on growth. "
What is one of your favourite moments in your legal career?
"I remember leading my first negotiation opposite a notorious partner from one of the U.S. white shoe firms. Closing that deal on successful terms felt like I had passed a major test. I felt like a real lawyer."
How are you leveraging legal technology?
"Despite our huge growth, we are still very much a scrappy start-up legal department. We are in the process of building out in-take tools which will help business teams get the help they need faster."
If you had a magic wand and you could change one thing about the legal industry, what would it be?
"Because it is a magic wand, I'd solve access to justice for everyone. "
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