Eric Lentell knew early on that he didn’t want to take the typical law firm path and instead pursued his goal of practicing in-house at a tech company. Today, he is vice president of legal at Fitbit and has a direct impact on the development of its products and services, which are aimed at helping people lead healthier, more active lives.
Lentell’s legal career began nontraditionally. “I actually learned that I wanted to be a lawyer while I was in law school,” he joked. “I decided to go to law school after I graduated from the University of Colorado in 2002 with an undergraduate degree in information systems. I wanted to explore the intersection of law and technology, but I wasn’t sure what I could do with that until I was in law school.”
Lentell decided to attend Colorado Law for its reputation. “I chose Colorado Law because of the emerging technology sector in and around Boulder and because Colorado Law was committed to developing its tech law program,” he said.
Recalling his time as a student, Lentell noted that experiential learning was fundamental to his growth as an attorney. “As a student, I was involved in a journal, which at that time was the Journal on Telecommunications and High Technology, and the Entrepreneurial Law Clinic,” he remembered. “Clinic especially gave me a flavor for what the intersection of technology and law was like through the work we did for the companies we were assisting.”
Besides his clinic experience, Lentell also enjoyed learning from professors who used their professional experiences in the classroom. “Two adjunct professors at the time, Patrick Ryan and Nate Trelease, were instrumental to my education at Colorado Law,” he recalled. “I really enjoyed having adjunct professors because they brought a blend of the real world into the typical law school experience.”
By networking and speaking with professors, Lentell quickly developed a sense of his future career path. “By talking with Phil Weiser and Brad Bernthal, I knew I didn’t want to go the law firm route. Instead, I took an externship with a Broomfield-based publicly traded company, McDATA, Inc., and from there I decided that I wanted to be in-house,” he said. “Learning from the experiences of other students such as Eric Gunning ('05) and Stan Doida ('06) was also fundamental in developing my legal career.”
Lentell’s career path of various in-house positions shows that networking and dedication can pay off. “When I graduated in 2006, I decided not to go to a law firm and instead accepted a position with McDATA,” he said. Unfortunately, McDATA was soon acquired and the legal team was disbanded as part of the acquisition. However, Lentell, determined to stay in-house, used his network to find a new position with a startup founded by CU alums. “They wanted a younger attorney to interface with outside counsel,” he recalled. “After I worked there for about a year I went in-house at Dish Network and then moved to the San Francisco Bay area to work for VeriFone.”
Discussing the move from Colorado to California, Lentell stressed the importance of networking and maintaining professional connections. “Between my undergraduate connections and law school connections, my network in the Bay Area was strong,” he said. “I went to all of the networking events and I met with anybody who would meet with me. Most, if not all, of my opportunities came through networking.”
One of the many reasons Lentell enjoys his career as an in-house attorney is the ability to be part of a company that brings useful products to consumers. “There’s great satisfaction when we release products that consumers use every day for a healthy lifestyle,” he noted about his current position. “All the stress leads up to the reward of delivering a great product that has a positive change on the daily lives of our customers.”
Outside of work, Lentell enjoys spending time with his wife and young daughters, as well as their two dogs. He also makes time to exercise outdoors, whether that’s running, hiking, skiing, or climbing. “Fitbit practices what they preach and they never look down upon employees taking breaks to exercise and to go outside. We often having walking meetings along the waterfront,” he said. “I’m also a budding mountain climber. I did a fair number of fourteeners while I was in Colorado but recently climbed Mt. Rainer and now have the bug to do more.” Lentell urges Colorado Law students to challenge the norm and rethink the art of what is possible with a law degree.
What is your fondest memory of being a student at Colorado Law?
The welcome hike our first week, I met some lifelong friends on that hike.
What do you know now that you wish you had known in law school?
Nothing, although I’ve learned a lot over the years I wouldn’t change the experience I had at Colorado Law as it has led me to where I am today.
What advice would you give to current students as they’re preparing to graduate?
The relationships you have made for the last three years will carry you far–lean in on those.
Who was the biggest influence on your career?
Brad Bernthal. As part of the criticism he gave me on one of my clinic assignments, he told me I lacked attention to detail. I remain committed to never getting that feedback again in my career.
Of what accomplishment are you most proud?
As a lawyer most of my proudest moments go untold due to the confidential nature of the work, however, each of our product releases at Fitbit are great wins for me personally and our larger legal team at Fitbit.