Clarissa Cerda, GC, Pindrop Clarissa Cerda, GC, Pindrop

Pindrop, a privately held company headquartered in Atlanta, was founded in 2011 on technology developed at the Institute for Information Security & Privacy at Georgia Tech. Venture-backed by Andreessen Horowitz, Citi Ventures, Felicis Ventures, CapitalG, GV, and IVP, Pindrop combats phone fraud by analyzing and assigning risk to phone calls. The company protects some of the biggest banks, insurers and retailers in the world using patented technology that extracts an unrivaled amount of intelligence from every call encountered. In August 2016, the rapidly growing company hired Clarissa Cerda as its first general counsel.

Legal Team

Cerda said she manages “a virtual global legal department” that includes both in-house lawyers and outside counsel. That team is comprised of four in-house attorneys, with one based in each time zone in the United States, four key outside lawyers spread across the country and legal partners in the five countries where Pindrop has a subsidiary. In addition, Cerda said she has a collection of special experts with whom she has worked ready to step in when their skill set is needed.

“I don’t draw the same lines between inside and outside counsel that most people do,” she said.

Outside Counsel

Cerda says her main outside counsel partnership is with DLA Piper, and her go-to firm for IP litigation and strategy, both offensive and defensive, is Kirkland & Ellis.

“I prefer to cherry-pick the very best lawyers to work on my virtual team, regardless of firm,” she said.  “My rules of engagement are simple: You have to think of yourself as part of the Pindrop virtual team, which means that you must play nice in the sandbox with the other outside lawyers, and you must invest your time and money to get to know the business, our mission and our values.

“You earn a spot on one of my legal teams for being very good at what you do, doing it with deliberate urgency, being a team player, knowing and being passionate about our mission and, most importantly, making hard easy. It is not because of the firm you belong to or who you know on the management team.”

Daily Duties

“My day to day is unpredictable, and that is what I love about it,” Cerda said.

Her daily responsibilities, she added, range from the expected duties of preparing for board meetings and participating in strategy sessions with the management team to spending time with the engineers understanding the product and brainstorming on privacy by design to meet the latest compliance requirements.

The more fun and creative aspects of Cerda’s job, she said, include figuring out how to apply or change existing law in the advent of cutting-edge technology that does not fit squarely within the regulatory scheme.

Route to the Top

Cerda graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1992 and then worked for two years as a lawyer in the White House. She was a corporate and securities partner at international firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal (now part of Dentons). Most recently, before joining Pindrop, Cerda was chief legal strategist and, before that, executive vice president, chief legal officer and secretary at LifeLock Inc., where she managed the company’s highest priority regulatory and litigation matters and helped take it public in 2012.

“For the last 15 years, I have been focused on working with fast-growing technology companies and getting them to their next level of maturation,” she said.

Personal

Cerda is married and has three grown stepchildren. She said she spends a lot of personal time with her family, her 135-pound, 2.5-year-old Newfoundland puppy and her parents.

“When I am outside the office, I really enjoy the things in life that one should be enjoying,” she said.

Last Book

“The Inside Counsel Revolution,” by former General Electric GC Ben W. Heineman Jr. The book discusses the role of the modern GC as a key partner to its company’s business executives.

Priorities

Cerda said she generally approaches her job with the objective of being able to help Pindrop grow and navigate its regulatory environment in a way that is best suited for it to achieve its business objectives.

“How do I get a company with cool, new technology to be able to use it to arm its enterprise customers and help consumers fight this onslaught of fraud in all industries?”

Contact reporter Kristen Rasmussen at krasmussen@alm.com