5 of tech’s most powerful lawyers

August 7, 2012, 6:26 PM UTC
Call them the quiet underdogs of Silicon Valley. They make deals, forge partnerships, and soothe regulatory headaches. And should (when?) legal combat arises -- a patent dispute, let's say -- they are on the front line. They're lawyers. Tech lawyers. Starting during Google's early days, these legal eagles rose through the ranks before moving on to take prominent positions elsewhere in the industry. In some circles, they were jokingly called Google's "legal mafia." Maybe not, but their contributions to tech are indisputable.

David Lee, Managing Member SV Angel

The former Google Principal and Corporate Counsel who led business developments on the video and multimedia fronts did a brief stint as Head of Business Development at StumbleUpon, the social discovery network. In 2007, he moved onto SV Angel, an early stage startup investors' fund, which has invested in over 220 startups, from Airbnb to Twitter. "This is David's fund," said super angel investor Ron Conway at a TechCrunch Disrupt conference earlier this year.

Dana Wagner, General Counsel Square

At Google, Wagner oversaw the company's partnerships with Yahoo in North America and Japan, and helped lead Google's acquisitions of DoubleClick, AdMob, and ITA Software. But his most important role was defending Google against the intense scrutiny of antitrust regulators. As Square's general counsel, Wagner is tasked with navigating deals and partnerships, not to mention government regulation.

Alexander Macgillivray, General Counsel Twitter

MacGillivray arrived at Google in 2003 and exited the company as Deputy General Counsel of Product and Intellectual Property. During his six years there, he represented the company in Viacom's copyright lawsuit against YouTube and led an attempted $125 million settlement that proposed compensation to authors and publishers whose works were included in the ambitious Google Books Library Project.

Ramsey Homsany, General Counsel Dropbox

Once widely regarded at Google as an all-star, Homsany served as the company's deputy counsel of the commercial group. According to Homsany, thousands of Google deals and partnerships flowed through him or the nearly 110 employees that once reported to him. That included expanding a 2005 strategic deal with AOL, then owned by Fortune's parent company Time Warner, which led to Google investing $1 billion in the Internet company.

Jared Grusd, General Counsel Spotify

During nearly four years at Google, Grusd helped build out the company's highly profitable ad business. He also headed up Google's New York legal team and the legal team responsible for Google ads, which included Adwords, Doubleclick and the monetization of YouTube. In 2009, Tim Armstrong recruited Grusd to work at AOL, where eventually served as Chief Strategy and Business Development Officer, basically overseeing strategic partnerships for the company. Now at Spotify, he's helping the popular music streaming startup grow, handling deals and raising funds.

Mike Yang, General Counsel Pinterest

Yang may best be known for handling two Google legal crises, including addressing concerns over Chrome's terms of service in 2008 but also privacy issues surrounding Google Buzz, the company's failed social networking and messaging tool. Earlier this summer, it was announced Yang would join Pinterest. His expertise could prove useful as the photo-heavy social network grows and potentially runs into copyright issues.