Stacy Carter’s dedication to understanding her clients’ needs and her enthusiasm for helping her clients thrive has fueled her career. As general counsel for Techstars, Carter helps young companies and entrepreneurs succeed daily.
Before law school, Carter worked as an accountant in the tax department at KPMG. "I discovered I liked mergers and acquisitions," she recalled. "I realized that I wanted to approach the work from the legal side of things." While Carter earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Virginia, she decided to come to Colorado for law school. “I knew some folks in Colorado and I since I wanted to come out West, this was a good opportunity," she said.
As a student at the University of Colorado Law School, Carter concentrated on business, tax, and accounting classes. She also participated in moot court during her third year. Her decision to join the Family Law Clinic allowed Carter to step outside her comfort zone and gain valuable skills. "I was interested in seeing a different kind of law," she said. "It was an incredible experience. I learned so much from the clinic, such as how to empathize with a client and how to listen. I still use both in practice today."
Additionally, Clinical Professor and Co-Director of the Juvenile and Family Law Clinic Colene Robinson inspired Carter. "Professor Robinson was an influence throughout my time at school and into my career. In the family law clinic, you’re working with minors, and representing kids is tricky. Professor Robinson taught us how to think about their interests and how to get clients to trust you and open up to you. All of those lessons have served me well in my career and aren’t something you can necessarily get from working at a law firm."
Carter focused on business law throughout her time at Colorado Law. "I returned to KPMG as an intern during the summer after my first year," she said. "I interned at Cooley after my second year and returned to Cooley after I graduated from Colorado Law." At Cooley, Carter worked mainly on emerging companies and mergers and acquisitions. "After a few years, I had the opportunity to work for a client, Rally Software. I was their second in-house attorney and it was a wonderful and unique experience to be an integral part of taking the company public and selling it to a multinational corporation, CA Technologies," she said of her proudest professional moment.
"Working in-house is a really great opportunity to work with other people who aren’t lawyers. You get to see the business through the business lens and see how broader strategies fit in," she said. For young attorneys who are thinking of making a similar switch, Carter offered two pieces of advice. "First, know the right time to move in-house is important and not waiting too long. Second, it’s really important for in-house attorneys to have transactional experiences. Contract drafting and negotiation experiences are critical."
After working for Rally, she moved to work in-house at Sphero, a local robotics and educational company. “I was general counsel at Sphero for a few years and it was really neat to work at a company where we made a product that goes on the shelves. It can be difficult to explain what your job is when you’re working in-house at a tech company. But it wasn’t hard at Sphero because it’s toys,” she joked. “The company was great. It was wonderfully creative and during the day people would drive and race robots up and down the hallways and through obstacle courses.”
Recently Carter transitioned to Techstars, the worldwide network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. "Techstars focuses on helping smaller companies grow their business and succeed," she explained. "It has been great to build our own legal team. We have a larger in-house legal team and it’s fun to think about recruiting and bringing new lawyers on board, especially Colorado Law graduates. Techstars is also global and it can be tricky taking calls at odd hours but it’s also really great bringing in so many different perspectives from all around the world."
In addition to the growth of the legal department, Carter is excited about the growth of Techstars overall. "We ran 40 accelerators this past year, working with 400 start-ups around the world. There’s a ton of opportunity for mentorship. We’re working with young CEOs who are passionate and eager, it’s unmatched to anything you will come across in a law firm."
Outside of her job, Carter enjoys watching her husband and children play soccer, and playing herself. "We all play soccer," she said. "We have four or five games a weekend and I love watching my whole family play. We also watch professional soccer and we’re huge fans of Liverpool FC and the U.S. Women and Men’s National teams."
What is your fondest memory of being a student at Colorado Law?
Making wonderful friends, many of whom are now my colleagues and outside counsel.
What do you know now that you wish you had known in law school?
I wish I understood networking better and how it changes with your years of experience. Networking early on in your career is probably as simple as doing an amazing job for your clients and more senior attorneys and making sure your work is visible.
What advice would you give to current students as they’re preparing to graduate?
You have a long career ahead of you, where you’ll hopefully have many amazing roles. Be patient, but always have a three- to five-year goal that you continue to work toward.
Who was the biggest influence on your career?
Jim Lejeal was CFO at two of the companies where I worked in-house, and I’m glad to call him a mentor and friend. His work ethic, ability to teach hard financial and legal concepts to any audience, and talent finding the right balance between the needs of the business and regulatory or other risk concerns were invaluable to me as I learned to be a general counsel.