A Winning Legal Career

“Given the glaring absence of Hispanic representation in the legal profession, I believe strongly in the need to reach out to Hispanic high school and college students in order to encourage them to consider law careers.” Edward Torpoco, Senior Commercial & Product Counsel, eBay, Inc.

After serving in the public sector for more than eight years, Edward Torpoco transitioned to eBay, Inc. in 2006 as regulatory counsel—lured by the chance to help the Internet pioneer navigate novel legal waters. Since his start with the United States’s top e-commerce company, Torpoco has tackled several roles, including a stint in Spain, and is currently the senior commercial and product counsel for the company that earned more than $9.2 billion in sales in 2010. Despite his responsibility, Torpoco has made it his top priority to mentor young, Hispanic lawyers, explaining that one of his greatest challenges was not having many Hispanic attorney mentors of his own.

What appealed to you about the legal profession? 

One summer while attending Georgetown University, I volunteered as an intern at a local district attorney’s office in Southern California, where I am from. I was really inspired by the dedication of the attorneys working in the criminal-justice system—on both the prosecution and defense sides—and was struck by their passion and commitment to the pursuit of justice. Apart from the intellectual challenge, the law appeals to me as a field that enables one to help shape society for the better.

What were you doing before joining eBay in 2006?

After law school, I clerked for a US district court judge, the honorable Irma E. Gonzalez, in San Diego. She was a terrific role model for me and inspired me to pursue a career in the public sector as a means of acquiring some trial experience early on in my legal career. After my clerkship, I was a state and federal prosecutor for seven years.

Why did you shift gears? 

I was happy working in the public sector, and felt tremendous pride and satisfaction representing the US in court as my client. However, I felt like the time was right to step outside of my comfort zone and pursue an area of the law that was cutting edge. I took the job at eBay because I was excited at the prospect of working as a lawyer for the world’s largest e-commerce site and tackling the sorts of complex and novel legal issues that come with representing an Internet pioneer. I started as eBay’s regulatory counsel, where I helped to manage the company’s relationships with federal and state regulators, law- enforcement agencies, and legislators. I also provided legal counsel to eBay’s policymakers and teams of investigators.

How has your role changed over the years?

eBay’s general counsel has been incredibly supportive of my desire to challenge myself constantly. After serving as regulatory counsel, in 2007, I was acting legal counsel for eBay Spain International as part of a six-month secondment in Madrid (Spain). In 2008, I transitioned to senior litigation counsel. In that role, I took on some high-profile civil-litigation matters for the company, both in the US and in Europe. In May of 2011, I transitioned to yet another role, senior commercial and product counsel. Currently, I do commercial deals and product counseling in support of the eBay marketplaces business. As an attorney for eBay, I’m thrilled to be a part of a company that is reinventing shopping every day.

Why did you join the San Francisco La Raza Lawyers Association?

The San Francisco La Raza Lawyers Association is the local chapter of the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA). When I moved to the Bay Area in 2002, I didn’t know anybody in the legal community. I joined the local chapter of the HNBA because I wanted to be an active contributor in the association’s efforts to support diversity in the legal profession and raise scholarship funds for Hispanic law students.

How have you mentored other Hispanic lawyers? 

I’ve been a mentor to dozens of young, Hispanic lawyers through the HBNA and other local bar associations. Also, given the glaring absence of Hispanic representation in the legal profession, I believe strongly in the need to reach out to Hispanic high school and college students in order to encourage them to consider law careers. For example, I’ve spoken to kids participating in Breakthrough Silicon Valley about the importance of going to college and pursuing careers in the law during their visits to the eBay campus.

What advice would you give other Latinos who aspire to become lawyers? 

First, I would say, “we need you.” Hispanics make up roughly 16 percent of the population of the United States, but only 3.5 percent of the lawyers. Second, I would say, “work hard and believe in yourself and you can achieve anything.” The difference between success and failure is determination.