A profile of Delida Costin, Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Pandora Media, Inc.
Education: 1995: J.D., Boston University School of Law; 1991: B.A., Northwestern University.
Career in Brief: 2010–present: Pandora Media, Inc., Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary; 2007–2010: Law Office of Delida Costin, Owner; 2000–2007: CNET Networks, Inc., Vice President and Assistant General Counsel; 1998–2000: Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, Corporate Associate; 1995–1998: Goodwin Procter LLP, Corporate Associate.
Location of Company HQ: Oakland, California.
Primary Industry Sector: Media and Entertainment; Internet.
Revenues in the Last Financial Year: Over $600 million (2013).
Number of Employees Worldwide: 1,069.
Number of Attorneys Worldwide: 12.
Law Department Locations: Oakland, California and New York, New York.
How is the legal function structured? We have “silos,” each of which primarily provides substantive matter expertise. Our silos include corporate affairs, business and commercial transactions, intellectual property, music copyright and litigation. Some of those silos also serve distinct client groups. For example, the business and commercial transactions team supports the day-to-day work of the sales, product and engineering teams. We must work across the silos on a daily basis to support the company’s needs.
How do you measure and improve productivity and success within the law department? The legal department is dedicated to supporting Pandora’s strategic initiatives. Sometimes those goals fall clearly within the traditional legal realm. Other times, our goals flow from business initiatives that other groups drive and our job is to be nimble enough to provide legal services in the moment of need. This means that we have a tendency to respond as quickly as possible to our clients’ calls and e-mails. We rely on feedback and our relationships to help us measure our success. We also set and track objectives as a department, which are not as directly linked to the company’s initiatives or our clients’ projects. These goals sometimes take a back seat to our other goals, but they are just as important. Tracking our progress against them helps us measure our success or make improvements or adjustments.
Are there any innovative ideas your law department has adopted to further its goals? We have a member of our financial analysis and planning team embedded in our department. She attends my leadership meetings and has grown to understand the cadence and culture of our legal department, as well as that of our outside counsel. Her first task was to review our process for managing outside counsel expenses. She has reduced the number of people in the finance and legal teams who manually manage the systems and process, improved our reporting, and provided better visibility into the forecast. All of this work has helped us have more candid conversations internally and externally about expectations, limitations and problem-solving techniques.
How does the law department avoid being perceived as the “office of no” while still ensuring it helps the client avoid liability? It is all about building relationships with our clients where we can demonstrate our ability to scale our service levels with their growth trajectories. Our team works hard to know our business counterparts and constantly tries to improve service levels.
What three things does a law firm need to do to impress you? 1. Understand Pandora’s strategic goals, the total landscape of the different industries in which we operate, and how our goals and the industry landscapes affect each other. 2. Understand the internal company culture, business requirements and rules of engagement for working with our in-house legal team. 3. Anticipate, communicate and tailor advice based on understanding each of the prior two requirements.
If not an attorney, what would you wish to be? I studied history in college and I remain fascinated by the moment in history that we occupy. I would be some type of cultural historian.
What is the best career advice you have ever received? My dad used to tell us that your job is called work for a reason. If it were always fun, it would be called recess, so dig in and work hard.
What one piece of advice would you give to a prospective General Counsel? Learn as much as possible about your business and about the legal landscape in which your company exists. Then spend time trying to anticipate the legal landscape in which your business will operate three, five and ten years in the future.