By Andrew Cohen
Most general counsel roles come later in a law career. New attorneys often get assigned to low hanging fruit like document review and due diligence. Young Black women rarely lead a startup legal team.
So exactly how did Galbreath become general counsel at Bitwise Industries — which builds tech economies in underestimated cities and helps marginalized people access opportunities in the tech industry — less than three years out of law school?
As a corporate associate at Gunderson Dettmer, Galbreath worked with Bitwise as a client and became a legal advisor to the company, which a few months later invited investors and others to “A Day at Bitwise.”
“I went and it was the best decision I made,” she says. “I actually got to see the company behind the deal papers in person. I landed at honestly the most welcoming, inclusive space. All of it blew my mind.”
After more transactions together, Bitwise’s CEO reached out to discuss the company’s first legal hire. For Galbreath, it reflected the same nontraditional approach tech startups are using more throughout their operation.
“It’s an environment for someone looking to be innovative and gritty across the company,” she says. “This tends to be young lawyers looking to find their stride while developing their skills.”
Bitwise has developed and leased over 100,000 square feet of space in downtown Fresno. The city’s first rooftop conference center is underway, moving closer to a campus for housing hundreds of companies and thousands of new tech jobs. Similar plans are afoot in Bakersfield, Merced, Oakland, and Toledo, Ohio.
In addition to real estate, Bitwise focuses on technology consulting and workforce training, expanding businesses’ knowledge of diverse talent, and training people to develop real-world tech skills while building on-ramps for those who are traditionally left out of the industry.
“I’m able to be a leader to so many people throughout the company,” Galbreath says. “I didn’t realize on this journey how many people I’d impact and how many colleagues I can provide advice for, be it translating things to laymen’s terms or closing a deal.”
Last semester, she shared insights with Berkeley Law students through the school’s Leadership Lunch Series. During her own student days, Galbreath was president of Law Students of African Descent and active with the Startup@BerkeleyLaw program.
While the tech world’s lack of diversity remains a frustration, Galbreath does see progress.
“When you’re given a seat at the table, you have to ensure that first you speak up and that others are listening to what you’re saying,” she says. “Part of that comes with confidence. I think if we keep pushing the status quo, we’ll be able to keep moving forward.”