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Brandis Anderson,  General Counsel at Ethena

Brandis Anderson, General Counsel at Ethena

November 18, 2022

What best prepared you, coming from a large legal org, to be a sole lawyer at a small company? What helped you in making the transition to running the legal team from scratch? Before joining Ethena, a compliance training startup, I was one of the first lawyers at fintech infrastructure company Plaid. Before that, I’d been at the CFPB. I approached the role at Plaid (as well as my current role at Ethena) with curiosity and a willingness to roll up my sleeves and work on any legal (and even non-legal) issues that arose — from employment to international expansion to privacy. You have to be somewhat of a generalist to work as a solo lawyer or on a small legal team, and you have to be willing to say “I don’t know; let me look into that” when you inevitably get questions that are outside your speciality (or that you have to Google to understand).

What issues did you tackle first? While I was the first in-house lawyer to join Ethena, the Company already had an impressive roster of advisors, including leading legal and compliance professionals. Also, since I was joining a compliance company, the founders and the rest of the executive team were already very compliance focused. This means that, from day one, we were able to approach working together from a place of true partnership. Some of my first projects focused on Ethena’s Series B fundraising, and working to expand our compliance training offerings to include other courses. Many of our customers and prospects are leading culture carriers or operate in regulated industries. So expanding our course catalog to include things like Code of Conduct and Data Protection have been key priorities.

What substantive area did you hire for first? How did you make that decision and what did you look for in that person? Right now I am still solo at Ethena, although I do work closely with outside counsel on a number of initiatives, including regular reviews of our training content. I feel very supported at the moment, and don’t have any immediate plans to hire anyone on my team. But when I do, I will want to bring on a generalist who can help on all legal initiatives.

What is the most rewarding part about building a legal team from scratch? I really enjoy the building phase of a company, and value the ability to help shape the company’s approach to all things legal and compliance. Joining the company on the ground floor allows you to help establish a culture of compliance as it grows and scales.

Building from scratch has its challenges, what made you want to take this on? I spent the last 10+ years in fintech and financial services regulation, and initially thought my next role would be in a similar industry. But when I met Ethena’s founders (Roxanne and Anne) and saw the important work they were doing to create effective compliance training that did more than check-the-box, I knew I wanted to join them. It is rare to work in an environment where everyone is focused and excited about improving compliance and company culture, and I was eager to find a way to support Ethena on work that I believe is mission critical for most companies.

What would you advise someone who's taking on a similar role/challenge? Working at a fast-growing company requires you to be adaptable since you don’t always know what new challenges will come your way. I feel fortunate to be passionate about the very important problem we are solving. So my advice to others looking to take on a similar role: Make sure to find a problem that you are excited to tackle, work with a team that inspires and motivates you to do your best work, and be adaptable!

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