Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla fame has yet another company, and that company is looking for an in-house counsel.
If the tunnel building venture, which has the tongue-in-cheek name The Boring Co., goes forward with the hire, it's likely that Musk won't be looking to bring on just any old attorney. Experts cited a number of desirable traits for this new in-house counsel, including a solid understanding of state and federal transportation rules and safety regulations as well as a sense of loyalty to what could be a pretty challenging project.
Musk's newest company is focused on building a network of underground tunnels for private and shared vehicle use. It is similar to technology currently in development called "Hyperloop." That technology is being used by two separate companies to build above-ground train tracks that rocket passengers from destination to destination. The Boring Co. takes that idea underground and modifies it so that regular cars can utilize this kind of high-speed transportation system.
In a video posted on The Boring Co.'s website, a red, computer-generated Tesla cruises down a traffic-backed two-way street in a busy metropolitan area. The car pulls to the right and docks at a platform, pulled below street level in an elevator shaft. The car, still on its platform, is ushered along a rail and hits speeds of 125 mph, merging with other rail-attached vehicles—including a shared public vehicle that fits about six people, standing and sitting. The video reveals a vast, imagined network of railways, an underground freeway, almost.
On the company's careers webpage is a list of 11 open positions. The last one is for legal: "In-House Counsel with Transactional Experience (Transportation Law Experience Preferred)." There is no additional information available on the website, and a message sent to a company email address found on the jobs page was not returned.
On July 20, Musk tweeted out that he received "verbal govt approval for The Boring Company to build an underground NY-Phil-Balt-DC Hyperloop." The travel time between New York and Washington, D.C., Musk wrote, would be 29 minutes.
Eric Zalud, chair of the transportation practice at Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff, said any in-house counsel joining Musk's project would, generally, need to grapple with fitting Musk's cutting edge technology to regulatory and statutory regimes that are decades to more than a century old.
"The Carmack Amendment, the federal statute that governs all freight loss and damage claims nationwide, is so old that the senator whom it is named after was killed in a duel," Zalud said. "A duel. That's how old this regime is."
Aside from transportation laws, both state and federal, Zalud said an in-house counsel for The Boring Co. might need expertise in a bevy of construction laws relating to actually getting this project built.
"In-house counsel would need to have an understanding of building permitting, construction law, maybe groundwater rights and mineral rights, depending on what type of territory they're going through," Zalud said. He said that because passengers would be transported through these tunnels, an in-house counsel would need to know the safety regulations that govern the construction of vehicles to be used on public roads, such as those written and enforced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
One legal recruiter expressed skepticism about the job posting.
"At the outset, my guess is that this is more of a publicity stunt than anything," said Harrison Barnes of BCG Attorney Search. Barnes said Musk must have a trusted stable of outside attorneys that he can call on to fill this spot, attorneys who know Musk's working style and businesses. But, Barnes said, "by getting people talking, submitting resumes and so forth, that is sure to attract attention to his venture."
But Barnes said that if the job opening is not just for show, the in-house attorney needs to be loyal. According to Barnes, the lawyer hired should have 8 to 12 years of experience and should not be a "firm-jumper," meaning, someone who has moved from law firm to law firm every two or three years. He said that noncommitted attitude won't bode well for a hire at a developing startup. "[Musk] needs someone that will not give up and is very persistent and does not have a major ego," Barnes said. "This person will need to be a team builder and someone not afraid to take on a difficult project that may look like it could fail numerous times."