Jonathan Feldman on His Path from Music to Law

Jonathan Feldman discusses his journey into the legal space and how his experiences have shaped him as both an attorney and a father

Some people grow up knowing exactly what they want to do. Others have formative experiences along the way that altogether change the trajectory of their career paths. Jonathan Feldman, co-general counsel and secretary at online advertising technology company Rubicon Project, is in the latter group.

In college, Feldman’s interests were wrapped up in the music industry. While majoring in music industry studies at California State University, Northridge, Feldman found himself in a couple of core classes about business law and copyrights that nudged his interests toward the legal field.

“Most of my fellow music majors thought those classes were the worst classes or a drag, but I thought, ‘What are you guys talking about? These are super interesting,’” he laughs. “I really enjoyed learning about how the law interacted with both business and music.”

Jonathan Feldman, Co-General Counsel and Secretary, The Rubicon Project Photo by Danielle Warner 

Feldman catalogued this newfound interest and began to wonder if a postgraduate law degree was in the cards. An undergraduate internship at an entertainment law firm cemented his decision to attend law school. “The law firm was a litigation firm, and that made me quickly realize I did not want to be a litigator,” Feldman concedes, “but I definitely wanted to be part of the legal world and to keep pursuing that interest.”

Since completing law school, Feldman has enjoyed a well-rounded career as an attorney. Feldman attributes his success to the positive workplace experiences and relationships he has garnered over the years. At his first firm postgrad, O’Melveny & Myers, Feldman’s initial attraction to the job was the people.

“I was impressed with every person that I met. I was impressed with their ability to balance high-level, high-caliber legal work with a family life and just being nice, kind, caring people overall. That really drew me to the firm,” Feldman explains.

In addition to being surrounded by hardworking, genuine people, Feldman explored different areas of law. “I had the opportunity to do a little bit of everything as a young corporate lawyer, which was great. I did a lot of mergers and acquisitions, but I also got to do public company reporting work and equity offerings, which gave me a broad base of knowledge and a strong legal foundation,” he says.

After a six-year run with O’Melveny & Myers, Feldman faced a fork in his career. “I was at the point in my career where I had to decide,” he recalls. “Did I want to push to try to make partner at the firm, or did I want to try something else? For example, the in-house route?”

Then, an opportunity arose through his wife’s law firm. “This company, Rubicon Project, was a client of my wife’s firm, and they had a really experienced general counsel who was looking for kind of a right-hand person to help him,” Feldman says. Feldman aced his interviews and moved in-house with Rubicon Project.

When he started at Rubicon Project, Feldman worked very closely with the former general counsel, Brian Copple. Through his network, Feldman had heard excellent things about Copple’s career and mentorship abilities, but Copple exceeded all expectations.

“I had the opportunity to do a little bit of everything as a young corporate lawyer . . .  which gave me a broad base of knowledge and a strong legal foundation.”

“Brian is someone who really likes to teach, explain, and guide as opposed to just mandating or telling you what to do,” Feldman says. “He always gave you the room to figure things out or to own a problem, but he also offered advice or shared his experience. He saw me as an equal, and he would run ideas by me as much as I ran things by him.”

When an external opportunity came up for Copple, he recommended to leadership that Feldman and another lawyer take over his responsibilities. Feldman believes that for the entirety of their working relationship, Copple was always training and mentoring him to eventually ascend to the general counsel role.

“He always tried to help me think like a general counsel: what they need to focus on, what they need to worry about, how to do a risk assessment, how to prepare for a board meeting,” Feldman explains. “He was methodical, and that is something I have tried to emulate as I have literally stepped into his shoes.”

As Feldman has navigated his co-general counsel role and whatever may come next for him professionally, he has strived to maintain work/life balance as a father of two. Since Feldman and his wife both serve as general counsel for their respective companies, time is tight, but that’s partly what makes it so precious.

“It is important to me to make it home in time for dinner and bedtime. It’s important to me to be there and see them grow up,” he says. “I want to be a present and connected dad, to be there for them emotionally or in any way that they need me.”

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O’Melveny & Myers LLP:

“I’ve known Jon for more than a decade. He is a pragmatic lawyer, looking to solve problems by addressing the business objectives and not just the legal hurdles. He is smart and flexible in his approach.”

–John-Paul Motley, Partner