Meet Michael Kingfield '06, General Counsel at Business Insider
“Just say yes.”
That may sound like a next-generation Nike slogan, but it has been the mantra of Michael Kingfield ’06 since he graduated from Brooklyn Law School.
“I’ve always felt that an opportunity is a gift,” says Kingfield, who in 2016 was named general counsel at Business Insider, an award-winning website that covers finance, media, technology, and politics. “If an opportunity comes your way, whether or not you feel ready for it, just say yes. Figure it out, because if you don’t say yes, you might not get another chance.”
Kingfield, who joined Business Insider in 2014, says his current position is the most rewarding of his career, putting him on the front lines of media and technology. In addition to his day-to-day responsibilities, which include handling contracts, real estate, and editorial and employment matters, he was involved in the company’s 2015 acquisition by Axel Springer, one of Europe’s largest media companies. Kingfield helped Business Insider navigate the complex deal, and he played a key role in installing the post-merger systems and processes necessary to operate as part of a public company. He continues to run trainings for the editorial and publishing teams on legal issues related to intellectual property and the First Amendment, including libel, slander, and defamation. He also has established important pre-publication legal review procedures for the company.
Kingfield began his law school career with a desire to work in the startup community. The summer after his first year at the Law School, he worked as a legal intern at UGO, a pop culture and comedy website that focuses on film, television, gaming, and geek culture. He loved the work so much that he ended up staying with UGO throughout law school and focused on classes related to the world of media startups—including corporations, financial transactions, intellectual property, and contract drafting and negotiation.
When UGO offered him a job after law school, Kingfield said yes—even though it was an opportunity in business development.
“I had a chance to get in at an early stage of an exciting startup,” he explains. “I knew I’d get to do a lot of different things because the company was growing, and it would probably need additional legal help down the road.”
He was right. Within a couple of years, UGO was acquired by Hearst, and Kingfield was asked to become head of legal affairs for the company. Although Kingfield remembers being terrified, he still accepted the offer.
“I was two years out of law school, and I was going to basically take on the role of in-house counsel for this company,” he says.
He relished the challenge, learning from anyone who would take the time to show him the ropes, and he leaned heavily on the general counsel and lawyers at Hearst. In 2012, after UGO was sold to IGN Entertainment, Kingfield joined Media Math, an ad tech company, in business development. Three years later, a friend from UGO recruited him to join Business Insider. Kingfield started in a hybrid legal and business development role, but he was soon promoted to senior vice president of legal affairs and then named general counsel a year later.
“Coming into Business Insider, which had not had an attorney in-house before me, I saw firsthand all the things that could have been done differently for the business if a lawyer had been here from the get-go,” he says. “There is so much benefit for a startup to have a lawyer who is familiar with the day-to-day operations.”
Today, early-stage startups can access that essential legal help thanks to the Law School’s Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship (CUBE), which Kingfield says is game-changing for both students and early-stage companies.
“CUBE really prepares students for a more entrepreneurial world, while offering essential legal resources to the startup community. It opens up a world of career opportunities for students and gives them their own chance to just say yes.”
— Andrea Strong '94