One thing I miss from working in corporate law which you won't find quickly in a startup is a feeling of complete competence and subject mastery.

In law, I worked on $50m-$1bn debt financings. Every deal was different, yet similar.

You can get good fast in a narrow domain.

Once you've done your first bond offering you know what they look like. You now have a precedent.

In fact, if you're at a Biglaw firm (like I was) you'll have a database of precedents for every type of deal.

You're applying subject-matter expertise to a template.

In a startup, there is often no template.

You're breaking new ground and solving new problems.

The issue is equally about navigating your team as it is about navigating the issue.

You're applying your mind to fresh problems, and the complexity multiplies as you scale.

In law I got ahead simply by printing off loads of precedent deals after dark, taking them home, and studying them.

That meant I could recognise patterns faster and have more data going into negotiations.

Partners will pick you for deals based on what you know.

In a startup, you're not picked simply for what you know. You get picked based on how quickly you can navigate what you DON'T know.

It's about how fast you can match historic patterns to new domains, and rally a team to join you on the journey.

We're quickly moving towards a world which won't be based on experts with an encyclopedic knowledge of the past.

We'll be led by those who can see the future and those with the courage to navigate it.

In this world, it will be increasingly important to build an anti-fragile career.

People will need to learn to scale their careers like a startup, find a competitive advantage and build a career moat that will be resilient to market conditions.

This will take:
  • a strong skillset
  • a robust set of mental frameworks
  • an internal compass to navigate ambiguity

Share this post