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August 29, 2018

What Job Opportunities Exist for Lawyers in the Blockchain Industry?

Julie Q. Brush

The article below is a reprint of my interview conducted by Olga Mack in Above the Law. Links directly to the original article are below. Thank you Olga! 

Calling All Lawyers: The Blockchain Opportunities Are Waiting: By OLGA V. MACK

Many of my readers became enthusiastic after reading why lawyers should consider blockchain and wanted to know what opportunities are available in this emerging industry. Julie Q. Brush, Founding Partner of Solutus Legal Search and author of the ABA top ranked career blog The Lawyer Whisperer, is widely known as the preeminent expert on the state of the legal market and is responsible for the successful careers of scores of attorneys.  I interviewed Julie to better understand the opportunities for lawyers in the blockchain industry.

According to Julie, “In today’s business world, there is a group of ‘next generation’ technologies that are going to revolutionize the way we live, think, interact and conduct business. And blockchain technology is leading the way. Blockchain is one of the fastest growing areas whose digital foundation is serving as the springboard for a plethora of applications that use it such as smart contracts, bitcoin. These new applications target a diverse set of tangible, intangible and digital assets in our culture and are creating increasing opportunities for lawyers.”

She explained, “Blockchain companies have attracted billions of dollars from investors and executives are wasting no time hiring lawyers early on in their company’s life cycle. So opportunities for lawyers are robust. Many companies are seeking to onramp their first lawyer to build and lead the function, which is viewed as mission critical to the business.”

General Counsel and Head of Legal/VP of Legal roles are plentiful in today’s market. Julie said, “These opportunities require a broader level of experience that include areas like general corporate, technology/commercial transactions (software), open source, regulatory, compliance, privacy, product development, consumer protection, board of directors experience, employment, real estate…and any other type of legal matter that might come down the pike.” Depending on the company, priorities on substantive expertise will vary.

She added, “There are other opportunities – slightly lower on the totem pole – that are offered in specialty areas like compliance and regulatory (international, federal and state). These roles tend to be awarded to mid-levelish lawyers with a high level of relevant experience.”

Junior level opportunities are also abundant for lawyers with two to six years of legal experience. Julie explained, “These roles require strong complex transactions experience and are heavily tilted towards licensing and commercial responsibilities, with an emphasis on software and saas.”

According to Julie, diversity of skills and experiences may be required. She explained, “A background in fintech and-or financial services/regulated industries such as healthcare, insurance, REITS, fund formation, broker-dealer, private equity funds, investment banks, and syndications is almost always a must. Candidates who possess this background will enjoy a strong competitive advantage.”

Of course, lawyers who do not have the relevant industry background, will encounter more challenges when competing for blockchain jobs. “For this constituency, considering an interim move to a different type of fintech or regulated company to acquire the industry experience is a good career strategy,” Julie recommended.

Geographically speaking, the majority of blockchain companies and opportunities for lawyers are found on the U.S. Coasts (California, New York, Boston), but a smattering exists in between. She explained, “In house experience is heavily favored for the mid-senior level positions, but most employers will also consider law firm associates for the junior level roles… if the regulatory and transaction experience is relevant.”

The good news is that Julie believes the legal job market is active overall and lawyers are enjoying the dynamics of a buyer’s market. She said, “The rise of blockchain technology has added a new level to the hiring activity, which will continue to increase as this market matures. So for those interested in this industry rocket ship, now is an excellent time to hop on board.”

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