Features

Julie Lickstein – NMI  

Using the law to drive operational efficiency 

NMI stands out as an industry leader with a comprehensive range of payment gateway offerings, SaaS solutions, and a seamless merchant acquiring platform. Scalable and efficient operations are crucial to maintaining that status and accelerating NMI’s reach, so says General Counsel Julie Lickstein, who plays an important role in ensuring the company’s continued success.  

Julie Lickstein | General Counsel | NMI  

Julie Lickstein | General Counsel | NMI

Headquartered outside of Chicago and founded in 2000, NMI is an embedded payments solution provider that facilitates more than $203 billion in transactions annually. The company has approximately 400 remote-first employees with a footprint across the US, Canada, UK and South Africa.  

Lickstein embarked on her journey with NMI to spearhead the development of a robust legal team. Having initially honed her skills in the field of law, she then spent a number of years in strategic and operational capacities. It was at NMI that she discovered the perfect synergy between her legal expertise and her strategic acumen. As NMI experienced rapid growth, fueled in part by company acquisitions, Lickstein found the opportunity to shape processes, optimize operations, and contribute to the company’s strategic vision. Her multifaceted role allows her to leverage both her legal expertise and business strategy, positioning NMI for continued success. 

Leading legal transformation 

“Navigating through a period of significant change, I’ve focused on building a strong legal foundation that aligns with NMI’s strategic goals. By streamlining contracting processes and prioritizing operational efficiency, we’re better positioned to meet the evolving needs of our customers and partners,” Lickstein says. 

Julie Lickstein | General Counsel | NMI  

Photo by Tavits Photography

One transformation Lickstein put in motion was driving the creation of a consolidated customer contracting model. Previously, NMI grappled with six disparate contract models that had come about from multiple acquisitions, but under her guidance, these have been integrated into a unified contracting model, shared in the legal section of NMI’s website.  

In addition, Lickstein’s team has introduced a contract management system. Lickstein wants to empower other departments to own their respective contracting processes whenever they can adhere to NMI’s pre-approved templated forms. For example, the sales team can send out proposals or NDAs without additional legal involvement. Lickstein’s team is working on adding more workflows to the system, with a goal of bringing both structure and organization to the legal files, as well as removing legal as a bottleneck to the contracting process whenever it can. Lickstein’s end-goal is for contracting to be more “self-serve”, with seamless processes for teams to send out, review, and execute contracts.  

Lickstein shares, “When I first joined, Legal had to touch every single contract that went out the door. With pre-approved templates in our new contract management system, appropriate team members can act independently and own the process from start to end.” 

Her proactive stance extends beyond process optimization. Lickstein remains vigilant, tracking legal developments specific to the payments industry and in-house counsel in general, including employment, intellectual property, privacy, and security issues. She keeps NMI’s management informed about key changes in the law, aiming to mitigate unnecessary risk.  

Lickstein has also played a critical role in NMI’s acquisition and integration of Sphere’s Commercial Division to form “NMI Payments,” NMI’s latest addition to its product suite. NMI Payments is an all-in-one payment platform that enables software vendors to take payments for their clients. This exciting new addition to NMI’s offering comes with additional legal considerations, including compliance with bank sponsorship requirements, new customer contracts, and new vendor relationships. 

Navigating legal growing pains 

Lickstein must navigate the legal intricacies accompanying the company’s exponential growth. As the company expands, one of her most pressing challenges lies in scaling legal operations to match this dynamic trajectory, especially as NMI acquires new entities and introduces new, innovative products and features.  

Julie Lickstein | General Counsel | NMI  

“The volume of legal work has been growing rapidly, necessitating a strategic approach to automation while maintaining a lean legal team,” Lickstein says.  

From handling due diligence questionnaires to managing customer contracts and vendor agreements, the legal team at NMI must swiftly and efficiently tackle a wide range of day-to-day matters. Automation plays a pivotal role in streamlining processes, allowing the team to focus on more complex legal issues. In addition, Lickstein notes significant improvements relating to privacy and security–an essential focus in an era of heightened cybersecurity threats. Since July 2023, Lickstein has assembled a new team comprising of a corporate counsel, a commercial and data protection counsel, a legal operations associate, a paralegal and a director of compliance (who also oversees the company’s risk and underwriting team). Together they have forged an impactful legal and compliance department.  

“Each member brings a unique skill set and perspective, contributing to the team’s collective expertise. While it sometimes feels like we lack the historical context for past decisions, I consider this rebuilding period a gift – an opportunity to shape the department’s processes and drive positive organizational change,” Lickstein observes.  

Embracing new opportunities  

Lickstein’s passion for justice ignited early, shaped by her negotiation skills honed while growing up with older brothers. At Cornell University, she initially pursued a major in economics with aspirations of entering the business and finance world. However, her passion for social justice led her to explore opportunities in the legal field. Her legal journey began indirectly with a summer internship at Lawyers for Children focused on social work, where she impacted custody outcomes during divorce proceedings. At NYU School of Law, she interned at the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, gaining invaluable insights into the complexities of the legal profession. She was an active member of NYU’s community, serving as Chair for Uncontested Divorce and Student Advocate for the Domestic Violence Advocacy Project and also advocated for asylum rights as part of the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project.  

Julie Lickstein | General Counsel | NMI  

After receiving her JD, Lickstein embarked on her professional journey at Foley & Lardner in the litigation group, but soon realized her passion lay beyond the courtroom battles and she sought opportunities to apply her legal expertise more directly. Later, she joined YipitData, and excelled in various roles including Deputy General Counsel, Director of Business Operations and Director of Strategic Initiatives, leveraging her legal expertise for business growth and innovation. 

In June 2023, Lickstein joined NMI as General Counsel, bringing a wealth of experience and a passion for strategy and operations. Despite initial apprehensions about focusing solely on law, Lickstein embraced the opportunity to contribute to NMI’s success in new and exciting ways. Today, she feels she is able to leverage her non-legal skillset as she guides the company on a diverse range of matters.  

“It has been invigorating to build a new department, drive strategic decisions and contribute to accelerating NMI’s growth and success. Every day, I’m challenged to consider new ideas, and it’s certainly kept me on my toes,” Lickstein says.  

Published on: May 30, 2024

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