Insights from GC Spouses Laura Salvatori (Anson Funds) and Muneeb Yusuf (League)Aug 11, 2021
We started this blog in order to share profiles and insights of top in-house lawyers, and over time, it grew evident that each General Counsel has their own unique perspective, experience and insights about the in-house life. For this post we decided to illustrate just how unique these perspectives are by profiling two GCs who are actually married to each other: Laura Salvatori, GC of Anson Funds, and Muneeb Yusuf, GC of League. We hope you enjoy!
Counselwell: Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
Laura: I currently serve as the General Counsel at Anson Funds. Anson Funds is a hedge fund manager that was founded in 2003 by Moez Kassam and Bruce Winson with offices in Toronto and Dallas. It is composed of several funds, each with a unique investment strategy. In 2020, Anson Funds’ flagship fund, returned more than double the S&P 500. I oversee all the legal, risk, regulatory and compliance matters for the funds, and enjoy every moment of it!
I completed a Bachelor of Business Administration, specializing in Finance, at the Schulich School of Business. I then earned a Juris Doctor degree at Osgoode Hall Law School, following which, it was clear that the intersection of financial markets and the practice of law was where I wanted to be. I articled at Stikeman Elliott LLP in Toronto. After successfully being admitted to both the Ontario and New York bar, I accepted a role at a prominent United States law firm, Weil, Gotshal and Manges LLP and joined its capital markets team. After practicing at Weil, I was recruited by Goldman Sachs, where I first worked on the investing banking legal desk and the Corporate Governance legal team. I was also appointed Secretary to the board of the Goldman Sachs Foundation, one of the largest corporate foundations in the world, as well as GS Gives.
In 2016, I decided to begin my transition back home to Toronto and took on the role of General Counsel and head of Human Resources at a private equity-held North American marketing company, Match Marketing Group.
Muneeb: I'm currently General Counsel of League. League is North America's leading enterprise Health Operating Systems, a data-driven and cloud-based platform designed to provide a new "front door" to healthcare. It is considered one of the top 50 fintech companies in the world by KPMG and was recognized as a Deloitte Technology Fast 50™ award winner (ranking 5th in Canada in 2020) and in the Deloitte North American Technology Fast 500™ (ranking 30th overall) honouring the most innovative and fastest growing technology companies in North America.
I earned a Juris Doctor from Osgoode Hall Law School, a Masters of Business Administration (finance specialization) from the Schulich School of Business and an Honours Bachelors of Science degree from the University of Toronto. I began my legal career at Stikeman Elliott LLP and I was formerly the General Counsel of Algoma Steel and Dundee Agriculture prior to joining league.
I devote a significant amount of time to providing guidance and mentorship through numerous avenues. I also constantly find ways to give back to the community through support of charities and through my dedicated service and involvement on numerous boards. I am vice-chair on the board of the United Nations Association Canada, and have previously served on the board of other organizations which include Parkinson Canada, Meta Centre and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Counselwell: What skills and character traits make a good GC?
Laura: Be approachable, not a stiff lawyer! You need to be viewed as a consigliere and advisor to your team, not as a final check mark in the decision-making process. A good GC will help his or her team to understand the legal aspects of a given situation, instead of making them feel like legal is a black box. Also, try to find ways to get to “yes”, instead of shutting things down without really thinking about them. The best way to do this? Make it your business to continuously learn from the business folks and to understand their objectives so as to better bridge the gaps between their side and the legal side. This isn’t always possible in every situation, but your team will appreciate your efforts in doing so and will always respect your legal guidance, even when it isn’t what they want to hear. I really enjoy learning from the investment professionals at Anson. Our principals, Moez Kassam and Amin Nathoo, as well as the entire portfolio management team, are incredibly good at what they do. The more I am around them, the better GC I become.
Muneeb: GCs have an incredibly wide scope of responsibility. They are generally involved, in one way or another, in all regulatory, risk, IP, commercial, governance, transactional and strategic aspects of the business. Their unique vantage point and involvement in all of these areas makes them a central hub of information and decision making. I think the primary difference between a mediocre and strong GC is that a mediocre GC is focussed very much on each legal task in a vacuum, whereas a strong GC uses their unique position to cross-pollinate and to synthesize information throughout the organization to produce or promulgate work product that advances the organization’s strategic goals. These GCs act as bridges and connectors across the organization by filtering salient information into their own or their team’s work product and furthering either warnings of risk or windows of opportunity, that go beyond merely a traditionally legal scope.
Counselwell: What area of law do you spend the most time on?
Laura: As GC, I don’t necessarily think of myself as practicing discrete areas of law. Rather, my job is to oversee all aspects of the legal risk of the company, and that usually encompasses several areas of the law, plus an understanding of how other areas of risk dovetail with it (i.e. operational, investment, technology, compliance). However, if I had to choose one, securities law would definitely be the area that I spend most of my time on, both on the Canadian side and the US side. Being a dual New York and Ontario qualified lawyer has absolutely been an asset for me since joining Anson.
Muneeb: At League, if I was to allocate my time to a particular area of the law where most of my time goes, it would be commercial technology law. That being said, every day is different. Some days I focus more on litigation, mergers & acquisitions, labour and employment, corporate finance, tax, and intellectual property, the list goes on and on. What’s more important is the time that I don’t spend “practicing law” per se, instead I work to manage and build out my team, evaluate risk, advise business’ leaders and advance legal and non-legal projects that move the dial for the organization.
Counselwell: What aspects of your spouse's job do you wish you had in yours?
Laura: Muneeb spends much of his day speaking with and balancing the needs of a broad array of stakeholders, similar to the role I had when I was at Goldman Sachs which was, of course, a much larger organization than Anson. Although sometimes challenging, this can be very rewarding. I love that Muneeb gets to do it each day.
Muneeb: I’m a transaction junkie. While League does several large transactions every year, I love that Laura gets to work on many deals at once, working on deal after deal, day after day.
Counselwell: Do you ever help each other with work matters (obviously without divulging confidential information)?
Laura: Absolutely. We both really love what we do and we would be lying if we said that we left work at the office and never discussed it at home. In certain areas, and on a no-names basis of course, it’s really nice to have another lawyer to bounce ideas off of over French toast on Sundays. Anyone who knows Muneeb knows that he enjoys playing devil’s advocate – he keeps me on my toes and keeps me sharp by challenging me on how I approach things.
Muneeb: League certainly appreciated the free legal advice from Laura, being a US attorney, when things were much tighter when we were at the Series A stage in our journey. It's always great to get multiple viewpoints to every problem, and it's a lot easier, and cost effective to run through issues with Laura than to call outside counsel, and given that I have been doing this for years, she has really developed a deep understanding for our business.
Counselwell: What advice do you have for in-house counsel who are looking to improve their work/skills?
Laura: I probably sound like a broken record - but it all starts with understanding your business better, and understanding your management team, what makes them tick and what their objectives are on a daily, monthly and long term basis. The most credentialed and decorated lawyer is of limited use as a General Counsel without a solid underpinning of the company’s business. Get out of your legal subject matter comfort zone and learn the ins and outs of your company and the industry it is operating in. It’s also key to build a network of other GCs and in-house counsel in the field. Start early.
Muneeb: Spend time trying to understand and evaluate risk to your company. Often at firms, a lot of time is spent trying to solve for every theoretical risk that could go wrong - this may make sense when you are charging by the hour. In-house, you need to have a better understanding of your organization’s business – and in doing so, understand what the real risks are to your business and what is a remote theoretical risk that probably doesn’t make sense to spend time and resources on. Also, it is crucial that you understand the long and short term strategic objectives of your organization. This understanding should generally frame your negotiations, advice and view on risk.