David Pashman ’97 shows and tells how to be a lawyer for a tech startup

When Adjunct Professor David Pashman ’97 graduated from the Law School, Google was non-existent and Yahoo! was just four years old. Pashman initially wanted to become a criminal prosecutor, but exposure to the fast-paced work of technology startups changed his course. Nearly 19 years later, in addition to being general counsel at Meetup, an online social platform to facilitate groups, Pashman helps students navigate the evolving path to becoming an in-house lawyer for technology companies.

Pashman’s journey began at large firms where he got hands-on experience in transactions in the technology sector. He started at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom as an associate in the antitrust group, went to Brobeck, Phleger and Harrison in the business and technology group, and eventually to Wilson Sonsini Goodrich and Rosati in its New York office, where he focused on venture capital, mergers and acquisitions, and capital markets matters. “I knew from working with a lot of companies that being on the inside and helping to build a business was something that I would really enjoy,” said Pashman, who joined Meetup in 2010. “The role of being a lawyer [at Meetup] is lawyer as adviser, lawyer as business partner, and lawyer as consigliere as opposed to lawyer as technician.”

In his seminar, The Law of the Startup, Pashman consolidates his experiences of navigating legal and business issues for technology companies into a course designed to give students the tools and insight necessary to be successful in the industry. He covers topics ranging from intellectual property and privacy to venture capital and mergers and acquisitions; past guests to his seminar have included attorneys from start-up darlings Spotify, Buzzfeed, and Tumblr.

“Professor Pashman’s seminar is a unique opportunity for students to gain insight into what it's like to be an in-house counsel at a startup, which isn't at all addressed by a typical law school curriculum,” said Samantha Ku ’16, development chair of the Social Enterprise and Startup Law Group student organization. “We're seeing a lot more students entering law school with startup experience or even just an interest in startups.”

Pashman’s seminar focuses on the practical issues that in-house lawyers face, an approach that differentiates it from the “black-letter law” curriculum that a typical corporate law course would cover, he says. “In the initial public offering class, for example, we don’t really focus on the securities laws about an IPO but rather we explore if an IPO is right for a company and if not what could be some alternative paths to liquidity.”

In addition to teaching the seminar, Pashman has participated in panel discussions hosted by NYU Law’s Social Enterprise and Startup Law Group, co-chairs the policy committee of the NY Tech Meetup, and advises New York Legal Hackers, a global community addressing issues in law and technology. All of this extracurricular activity underscores a skill that Pashman believes in and espouses: networking.  

Networking is not only necessary to land a start-up tech job, but also to becoming a successful in-house counsel, says Pashman, especially because it will expose law students to the vocabulary and culture of the tech sector. He encourages his students to connect with him via the social media channel LinkedIn, ask for introductions to his industry contacts, and keep in touch with guest speakers of the seminar. He also advises law students to befriend business school students. Not surprisingly, Pashman recommends meetups and plans to take his seminar class to a tech meetup this spring. “In New York City, there are tremendous resources and communities to get involved in technology.” 

Posted November 11, 2015