Leung shares his strategy for building a new legal function
Mark Leung has joined Vancouver-based sports, entertainment and real estate development company, GSL Group, as general counsel. As the company’s first and only in-house lawyer, Leung is tasked with building and growing a legal department from scratch, and working closely with company president, CEO and founder, Graham Lee.
“I couldn’t say ‘no’ to the opportunity to act as general counsel and have a direct line to the CEO,” says Leung, who joined GSL in January. “Being at the executive level and getting to know Graham and his leadership style and the culture he espouses in the company was a great opportunity.”
Leung brings a wealth of experience from his previous role at media technology company BroadbandTV where he spent seven years in the legal department, most recently serving as director of legal. He has also worked as in-house counsel for a branding firm that he co-founded during law school, and as a litigation associate at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP.
In his new role at GSL, Leung is working with the rest of the organization to establish a legal function and set up processes in a company that has relied on external counsel since its inception in 1989.
“It is a learning process for the organization and myself,” says Leung. “With internal counsel there’s a whole host of intangible skillsets that we bring – one of which is to be able to assess a situation, whether it’s a dispute or a commercial contract or a new business venture, and to bring to the table all that depth of expertise, and to advise the business people about the risks and the opportunities. It’s a holistic advisory role.”
As part of the the transition process, Leung regularly meets with the external counsel that have been working with GSL prior to his appointment, to learn about ongoing legal matters and precedents.
Leung’s experience starting his own company as an entrepreneur and later working for a fast-growing media tech company allows him to bring a creative and innovative mindset to the role at GSL, and to have a keen understanding of the tangible objectives of a business.
“It’s really important for an in-house lawyer to be able to think outside the box and to think like a business person, and really understand the business objectives,” he says.
As general counsel, Leung manages contracts, regulatory, compliance and privacy matters for GSL, and he supports GSL’s many businesses, which include construction projects, ice rinks, a hotel, a restaurant, a farm and a hockey team. As he builds the legal function for the company, he is also supporting the business in the launch of various technology ventures.
Leung hopes to expand his legal department in the future to include a paralegal or administrative assistant and possibly a compliance officer or junior lawyer.
“When you’re finding the right staff, you’re finding talent. I want to find the right person with the right character and the right values and a foundational set of skills so I can mould them,” he says. “It’s more about the type of person than the specific function they will be performing.”