"I did my research and I really liked that LegalZoom was doing something novel in my own industrythey were making the law accessible to the middle class and to small businesses. I think how much my dad's company would have saved if LegalZoom had been around in the '80s when he started." He also contacted LegalZoom board member Gary Culliss, who had been a fellow law student their first year at USC. "Gary told me to send in a résumé and get on a plane to L.A., and I immediately did both!"
The position has allowed Rampenthal to be involved in a wider variety of legal matters than most corporate GCs. Since LegalZoom offers legal products and services to its customers, he is closely involved in ideation and development.
Inside and outside counsel
Rampenthal established LegalZoom's legal department and expanded it to its current staff level of 16, a group that includes 13 attorneys beside him. "We're involved not only in corporate-facing legal work, but also in the legal research and development required for LegalZoom's products and services."
Dubbed the "Legal Architect" team, about one half of the in-house attorneys focus solely on product compliance and development. They ensure "that all of our documents are compliant, complete and up to date."
He also manages the company's Legal Advisory Council and regularly speaks to legal and consumer groups about the company's mission and says, "It's one of the cool aspects of my job."
Rampenthal handpicked every member of the department and applies a management model learned from his years as an officer in the Navy. "I was put in charge of teams of people who had technical skills I lacked, like fixing radios. I realized that true leadership doesn't come from barking commands and pulling rank; it comes from fostering a relationship of trust across the entire department. There is no place for micromanagement if you want to change the worldyou just can't do it on your own."
Workload is divided between four VPs who report to Rampenthal, and then down to individual counsel or the legal architect team. As for outside firms, Rampenthal uses Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton for corporate work, a team led by partner C. Thomas Hopkins, who Rampenthal calls "a great attorney and savvy businessperson ... my go-to guy when I need a sounding board."
Rampenthal is using Patricia Glaser at Glaser Weil Fink Jacobs Howard Avchen & Shapiro as the company's lead counsel for its lawsuit alleging trademark infringement and unfair business practices against one of its fastest growing competitors, San Francisco-based Rocket Lawyer.
He works with Peter Kennedy at Graves Dougherty Hearon & Moody in Austin, Texas, where about half of LegalZoom's employees are located. They handle certain regulatory and litigation matters.
"Pete was the first outside lawyer I hired, Rampenthal says. "He was one of the lead lawyers who worked on a case for (legal publisher) Parsons against the Texas State Bar in the late '90s, and was instrumental in the decision of the Texas Legislature to exclude publishers and software from the definition of the practice of law," which further secured LegalZoom's business model, Rampenthal says. For other litigation matters, LegalZoom has used Robert Thompson at Bryan Cave and Alycia Degen at Sidley Austin.