During the past eight years as corporate counsel with Paragon Legal, Rick Heisler has supported critical privacy and licensing agreements and contracts for biotech leaders and technology and consumer electronics companies. Rick’s deep curiosity and independent streak make being a Paragon project attorney a great fit for him and the legal teams that rely on him, as Rick discusses below.
On-Call Tech, Life Sciences and Media Lawyer
I began my legal career as a Biglaw litigator, seemingly on the defense side for big corporations, but although I was quite good at it, I hated it and jumped quickly into transactional media law (through a dog-walking connection) to TV Guide corporate counsel (don’t laugh, they had an amazing IP portfolio including mobile program guides for your home DVR). From there, I served in various parallel positions in Hollywood media companies and then moved to San Diego, when I realized I didn’t need to be in L.A. anymore. It was there that I expanded my general corporate legal skills as I was de facto general counsel at two start-up SaaS companies for five years. While toying with the idea of moving to the Bay Area, I got a call from Paragon to gauge my interest in work in NorCal. I drove up for an interview the next day – and have stayed in the Bay Area ever since.
Living the Paragon Life
A few things stand out for me when I describe my experience working as a Paragon attorney. First and foremost is freedom! Less stress, more time and a schedule that feels more under my control when it seems like we’re always on the clock during the Digital Age. It’s easy to bring my individuality to the forefront too. My clients know the work gets done with my knowledge and experience without them expecting me to feel and act like a corporate drone. I like the flexible, non-business dress code and lifestyle too. My hybrid remote work is the ideal situation, giving me enough in-person time to build relationships and enough remote days for me (and dog) time!
Best of Paragon
There are a lot of upsides in the interim support arena. First things first, the pay is competitive with permanent roles, I have found, after being approached to interview for them. I really enjoy getting new views into different companies and industries, which appeals to my ever-curious, constantly-thinking mind. I also greatly appreciate the different perspectives and approaches I am exposed to, such as learning a new way to think about contracts, which has become my primary practice.
Expanding Interim Work
It’s been a challenging time for headcounts and budgets in tech companies. As such, they are getting creative in meeting their new fiscal realities. On the most immediate front, I was happy to hear that my current gig was extended through this year and into 2024. The Paragon model allows companies to think differently when it comes to getting the support their legal team and business partners so desperately need, especially in the face of heightened scrutiny on expenses. We are a backstop for a multitude of challenges.
Second and Third Acts
I count myself lucky that Paragon has allowed me to be a lawyer without requiring me to feel trapped by many of the lawyer stereotypes. I’ve reinvented myself a few times, including changing course after an extended time in the Hollywood studio system, my first career. I have many interests outside of law, such as fiction and non-fiction writing, progressive politics, and an unhealthy obsession with music, which dates back to high school and college (Grateful Dead!). On balance, being with Paragon has allowed me to pursue those interests as well as helped this SoCal native finally make the move north!
Corporate Counsel by Choice
I call myself an accidental attorney because I turned to the law after shifting careers from movie production, development, and screenwriting. In law school, despite doing well in trial advocacy, I never became fond of public speaking nor the litigation arts. Intellectual property law and environmental law were more compelling to me. Working as corporate counsel to a variety of SaaS, tech, biotech, pharmaceutical and media companies, including startups, helps prevent burnout and keeps me engaged.
Busting the Interim Attorney Myth
There are some misconceptions around interim or contingent employment. Being a contingent employee of a firm via Paragon is really no different than being an “at will” employee in California, where you can be fired/let go for any legal reason a company wants. Whether you’re a temp hire or a permanent FTE, we’re basically all in the same boat (unless you have a contract!).
Sources of Inspiration
My love of cinema goes back to my movie-steeped childhood during the maverick New Hollywood years of the ‘70s. I watched James Stewart’s performance in Otto Preminger’s genre-busting courtroom drama, “Anatomy of a Murder,” which inspired me to pursue a career in law. Later, I loved the movie “Michael Clayton,” and consider George Clooney’s cynical depiction of the legal fixer one of my favorite onscreen lawyer portrayals. Music and writing are major sources of inspiration for me. The time I spend with my dogs is particularly important for my work-life balance too. Basically anything that helps me from becoming an insufferable lout (like I sound like here!)