Many of the lawyers on this list have spent their careers in finance law or in-house at other tech companies. One lawyer went in-house just one year after finishing her law degree, while another held senior-level roles across three different presidential administrations before finding his way into the world of bitcoin.
Whatever their experience, these 9 lawyers are helping some of the biggest names in cryptocurrency navigate the shaky and ever-changing landscape of blockchain regulation and compliance.
Brynly Llyr — Corporate Counsel at Ripple
Undergrad: Mills College
Law school: University of California, Berkeley
Why you should know her: Llyr’s career has spanned both tech and finance, making her uniquely qualified to work in cryptocurrency.
“I joined Ripple in 2016 for the company’s technology and vision,” Llyr told Business Insider. “Improving the efficiencies with payments helps real people around the world – many of whom are either shut out of the banking system altogether or are subject to high fees and poor visibility into the payment system.”
Prior to joining Ripple, she was at PayPal and eBay for a combined total of five years and managed a range of issues from litigation to patents. Before that, she was at a law firm representing both corporate and individual clients in regulatory investigations, among other things.
But one of Llyr’s most defining experiences may likely be one that happened before she had a law degree at all. Llyr spent seven years as a project manager and stock broker at Charles Schwab, which gives her unparalleled understanding of the financial systems that Ripple is trying to conquer.
Mike Lempres — Chief Legal and Risk Officer at Coinbase
Undergrad: Dartmouth College
Law school: University of California, Berkeley
Why you should know him: Lempres’ career has spanned both public and private sectors, including time in senior government positions under three different presidential administrations.
He joined Coinbase in January from a similar role at another blockchain company, Bitnet Technologies. Before that, he was assistant general counsel at Silicon Valley Bank’s financial group.
“I first heard about cryptocurrencies from friends who were on it very early. Later I was working at a bank that focused on technology companies in the Bay Area, and a few crypto companies were looking for a bank,” Lempres told Business Insider. “The space was fascinating to me, and I began to believe it could change the world […] I still love the technology and the legal art in this space. No looking back!”
Lempres also has a less conventional item on his resume — mayor of Atherton, an affluent Silicon Valley town and the most expensive zip code in America, which is home to influential tech billionaires like former HPE CEO Meg Whitman and former Google chairman Eric Schmidt. He still sits on the Atherton city council.
Marco Santori — President and Chief Legal Officer at Blockchain
Undergrad: University of California, Berkeley
Law school: University of Notre Dame
Why you should know him: Santori is likely the crypto lawyer with the most name recognition among his peers — and with good reason. In addition to practicing law, he has been a central figure on the foundation level, helping bring legal clarity to a developing field.
Santori joined Blockchain from Cooley LLP, where he was head of the financial technology group. While he’s spent most of his career at law firms, Santori started building a name for himself in crypto around 2013, when he joined the Bitcoin Foundation as chairman of the regulatory affairs committee.
He even co-authored the authoritative white paper on Simple Agreements for Future Tokens (SAFT) — a new investment vehicle which has given venture capitalists and other investors a way to invest in blockchain startups outside of the traditional equity model. The SAFT model is used by top investors, like Sequoia Capital’s Matt Huang, today.
Sivan Whiteley — General Counsel at Square
Undergrad: University of California, San Diego
Law school: Harvard
Why you should know her: Whiteley is a well-regarded tech lawyer who fell into the crypto space when Square — her company of five years — introduced bitcoin trading on its popular payment app in November. Now, with Square CEO Jack Dorsey established as an unabashed bitcoin evangelist, Square is poised to entrench itself as a cryptocurrency payment company. And it’s Whiteley driving Square’s legal team into the future.
Whiteley was promoted to general counsel in March when Hillary Smith gave her notice, after just 16 months into the job. Before joining Square, she was associate general counsel at Better Place, a green battery startup, and eBay, where she focused on commercial and product law.
This background makes her one of the most tech-savvy lawyers at one of the most mainstream companies in cryptocurrency.
John Beccia — Former General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer at Circle
Undergrad: Providence College
Law school: Roger Williams University
Why you should know him: Beccia was one of the peer-to-peer payment company Circle’s earliest employees when he first joined in 2013 — a sign that the company knew how important regulation would be in the space.
After being introduced to Circle by chance, he started researching bitcoin and “went down the rabbit hole. So it wasn’t a hard decision for him to leave the established world of finance law for the “chance to build the company from the ground up,” he told Business Insider.
“When you talk about the nuts and bolts of corporate law or compliance, there are very different risks here, whether it’s on the security side or the trading side,” Beccia said, comparing crypto to financial law. “As a lawyer you have to be able to adapt to that and deal with some of the gray areas of the law.”
Beccia’s background runs the gamut form government relations and police to more traditional financial services both on the legal and compliance said. Most recently, he was deputy general counsel at Boston Private Financial Holdings, a publicly traded bank holding company.
Then in January, Beccia left Circle to pursue a still-undisclosed project in the cryptocurrency space. He plans to share more details of that project in June.
Lindsay Lin — Counsel at Stellar and Lightyear
Undergrad: University of Virginia
Law school: Harvard
Why you should know her: The fact that Lin finished her law degree just three years ago hasn’t stopped her for making a name for herself in blockchain tech. A math major in college, it was the cryptography element of cryptocurrencies that first fascinated Lin.
“I didn’t think cryptocurrency/blockchain law was a viable legal specialty until 2017, when there was an uptick in mainstream development and adoption,” she told Business Insider.
So she started her career as an independent medical device regulatory consultant before joining Lightyear, a payment platform built on the Stellar network, last July. She’s since found her stride, writing influential think pieces like “Why ICOs Should Want to be Securities.”
“I love the daily challenge involved in being in-house at a blockchain company — every week, there are new developments that may impact how we choose to operate our business or structure and market our products,” Lin said.
Adele Faure — Assistant General Counsel at Robinhood
Undergrad: Stanford (she also has a master’s from Harvard)
Law school: Yale
Why you should know her: When Robinhood decided to add support for cryptocurrencies in January, it was Faure who figured out the regulatory and legal requirements of the ambitious project.
“I worked closely with engineering and product teams on the launch of Robinhood Crypto, spearheading the regulatory and legal aspects,” Faure told Business Insider. “Navigating the dynamic regulatory implications of cryptocurrencies, which are still new and evolving, was an exciting challenge for me. I enjoyed diving into this new space, and did a lot of research to get up to speed on the various legal and regulatory issues that could be involved.”
As the top lawyer at Robinhood, much of Faur’s job involves classic counsel work like negotiating contracts and advising on legal matters. And like many of her peers, she hadn’t worked in cryptocurrency until her current role. Before joining Robinhood, she worked at a law firm as part of its Africa, corporate and tax practice. She also worked for the World Bank in southern Africa.
Ben Sherwin — Corporate Counsel at Uphold
Law school: Boston College
Why you should know him: Sherwin has spent more than 20 years at senior in-house positions in some of the most important financial institutions in the United States, including Merrill Lynch and Bank of America.
Before joining Uphold, he was a senior advisor at a startup merchant bank called Incentrum Group. He also has an MA from Kings College in London in war studies.
In other words, Sherwin is extremely familiar with financial regulations, and he knows how to put up a fight.
Now general counsel at Uphold, an exchange which lets users move money between more than 30 different global and crypto currencies, it is up to Sherwin to bring some of his securities expertise into the cryptocurrency space.
Lee Schneider — General Counsel at BlockOne
Undergrad: University of Michigan
Law school: American University
Why you should know him: Earlier this month, Schneider made a move that would have been unfathomable to many just a few years ago: He left his role as partner at the firm McDermott Will & Emery to join an early-stage startup as in house counsel.
Schneider met his new company, BlockOne while working at the firm. The company was one of his clients, and he got hooked.
“It’s a ton of fun,” Schneider told Business Insider. “I get to deal with all of these really interesting legal issues in the context of a new technology, and really get to think about concepts of law that I’ve thoughts about for my whole career but in a completely different context.”
Before joining BlockOne, Schneider had spent his entire career in financial services and tech, both in house and at law firms.
He first encountered blockchains around two years ago while advising Coinbase the “Securities Law Framework for Blockchain Tokens,” a detailed analysis of the space circa 2016 which it made publicly available to help other startups figure out their legal obligations.
On the side, Schneider can be found running his blockchain startup “production studio”, Genesis Block and working a fintech podcast called “Appetite for Disruption,” which he co-hosts with a former SEC commissioner, Troy Paredes.