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The wild ride of being a General Counsel

"Wild" is the word Theo Kapodistrias uses to describe his 2021. He burned out, the demands of being a General Counsel combined with the global pandemic taking their toll. He became mentally and emotionally exhausted. Realizing he needed to prioritize his health, he decided to resign from his position.

Before taking a step back, Kapodistrias was the GC at UpGuard, a cyber security company. He was used to working remotely, due to the global nature of the business, so the transition to working from home during the pandemic was not a difficult one. "We were familiar with working virtually and ensuring we made time to be connected."

His role as GC was embedded in many processes and being part of the executive team meant senior leadership would ensure he was involved where legal advice was required. Kapodistrias operated as a legal team of one for UpGuard, which meant connection with the business was critical for him to fulfil his role as best he could. "I'd have regular meetings with the executive team, the operations team where my role reported into, and other teams within the business to ensure that we were staying connected and were collaborating as best as we could."

He says 2021 threw him some extraordinarily complex and bizarre matters. "Things which I never thought I'd have to deal with." He worked strange hours, dealt with external counsel, colleagues in other jurisdictions, and questions about cross-border issues.

Yet despite the challenging working circumstances, Kapodistrias can reflect on the experience as a learning opportunity. "As we saw in 2020 and 2021, there was a need to act pragmatically and creatively," he says.

Legal issues arose that many lawyers had never dealt with before, and Kapodistrias got through them by maintaining a risk-based perspective, thinking practically, and sometimes using imagination to ensure a positive outcome. He believes the lawyers who have best weathered the storm of the pandemic are those who applied aspects of "design-thinking, clear communication and interpersonal skills" to their practice. These are all skills he tries to implement into all his work to ensure the best possible outcome for the business partners and the business itself.

While 2022 will be a very different year for Kapodistrias, one goal is to grow technically as a lawyer, something he says there is always scope to do. Specifically, he'd love to hone his skills in IP, in the areas of trademarks and patents. "It is such a critical area for businesses to be on top of, and all in-house counsel should be equipped to deal with the most common aspects of IP law."

Outside of the law, graphic design is an area of interest he is keen to explore as he believes it goes hand in hand with creating engaging legal material for business partners and stakeholders.

Kapodistrias is also excited for the mystery that awaits him. "I am not sure what's in store or what I may end up doing, but I'm looking forward to the adventure and figuring it out."

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