Interview by Josh Lee, Tristan Koh and Ong Chin Ngee| Edited by Josh Lee
TechLaw.Fest 2020 (“TLF”) will take place online from 28 September – 2 October 2020, becoming the virtual focal point for leading thinkers, leaders and pioneers in law and technology. In the weeks leading up to TLF, the LawTech.Asia team will be bringing you regular interviews and shout-outs covering some of TLF’s most prominent speakers and the topics they will be speaking about.
This week, LawTech.Asia received the exclusive opportunity to interview Mary Shen O’Carroll, President of the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (“CLOC”) and the Director of Legal Operations, Technology and Strategy for Google. Mary will be kicking off TLF as a speaker in the first Leaders Fireside Chat: Skills at Scale and the Legal Function.
Despite its increasing prominence, legal operations still remains a relatively recent idea in the legal industry in this part of the world. Most lawyers may have an inkling of what it entails, but may struggle to put it down in words. In the most concise and compelling way, what is “legal operations” to CLOC, and why is it such an important element of the modern legal industry? On a separate but related note, what sort of knock-on effects will it have on legal education and training?
“Legal operations” describes a set of business processes, activities and the professionals who enable legal organisations to serve their clients more effectively by applying business and technical practices to the delivery of legal services. The legal operations function includes areas such as strategic planning, financial management, project management and technology expertise. These enable legal professionals to focus on providing quality legal advice and services within a shorter span of time.
Legal operations professionals are laser-focused on efficiency and effectiveness. As a result, they have created and are driving a demand in the industry for better pricing models, alternative legal services providers, legal technology, data analytics, project management, (among other things). This, in turn, has created new roles and job functions within the legal ecosystem, positively impacting legal education and training. Lawyers of tomorrow will practice law very differently from lawyers today, in ways that require more collaboration, technical skills and data analysis. Additionally, those graduating from law school who once only had one path to follow, now have a plethora of options and directions to choose from.
How has the relationship dynamic between the business and legal teams changed over time, and how will it continue to change?
It has changed significantly. We are moving from a specialist model, in which legal departments operated in silos, to a much more integrated and collaborative model. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen increased acceleration: general counsels now have to wear different hats – no longer can they just be the “lawyer-in-chief”. In the past, their primary focus was on legal matters where they react to specific and limited issues and manage traditional compliance. These days, they have to be strategic leaders in proactively guiding and supporting their CEOs and companies across many challenges. They must be change-leaders, helping their companies adapt and incorporate new technologies and processes.
These days, (general counsels) have to be strategic leaders in proactively guiding and supporting their CEOs and companies across many challenges. They must be change-leaders, helping their companies adapt and incorporate new technologies and processes.Mary Shen O’Carroll, President of Corporate Legal Operations Consortium; Director of Legal Operations, Technology and Strategy for Google
Help us build the narrative. The legal industry, especially law firms, are familiar with the notion of legal technology, legal innovation, and even multi-disciplinary practices (MDP)s. How does legal operations sit with these concepts – can it be said to be a concept that encompasses all these terms and more?
I think that is a great way to think about it. As mentioned above, legal operations is a multi-disciplinary function that enables legal departments to serve their clients more effectively by applying business and technical practices to the delivery of legal services. Legal operations provide strategic planning, financial management, project management, and technology portfolio investment expertise, which in turn allow legal professionals to focus on providing legal advice.
We’re curious about what goes on in the legal operations teams of the big technology companies, like Google. How has legal operations shaped Google’s legal function and what does Google’s legal operations team look like today?
Over time, my team has grown from a team of just one to a team of over 50 professionals. Our mission is to “multiply Legal’s impact by driving innovation, operational excellence, and focused execution”. We essentially operate under five broad umbrellas of expertise:
- Program Management, which includes strategic planning, process improvement and project management.
- Data Analytics, which includes dashboards, analytics and data management.
- Education and Knowledge Management, which includes training, certification, onboarding, development of help centres and documentation of policies and processes.
- Tech Enablement, which delivers technology solutions that help Legal scale with the Business.
- Vendor Management, which includes outside counsel and vendor engagement, right-sourcing and spend management.
This piece of content was produced by LawTech.Asia as an official media partner for TechLaw.Fest 2020. Click on the banner below to access TechLaw.Fest, and register for the event (it’s free – for limited slots only)!