The Legal Department

How To Use Legal Operations To Level-Up The Legal Department: Mary O’Carroll Chief Community Officer Ironclad

The Legal Department | Mary O'Carroll | Legal Operations


If you’re a busy GC and you think you don’t have the time to think about legal operations, then you’re probably the very person who needs it the most. It’s a force multiplier that many GCs don’t know existed. On today’s episode of The Legal Department Mary O’Carroll, former director of legal operations for Google, offers the “why” for GCs considering whether to invest in legal operations. Mary shares the six key metrics all GCs should track to demonstrate the value of the legal department and how to use legal operations to level-up The Legal Department and deliver more value to your organization. Mary was also a co-founder of the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium, the largest organization of legal operations professionals. CLOC provides in-depth resources for legal operations, including the CLOC Core 12 framework to help you explain “what is legal operations?” to your CFO. Tune in and learn a ton from her insights!

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How To Use Legal Operations To Level-Up The Legal Department: Mary O’Carroll Chief Community Officer Ironclad

My name is Mary O’Carroll. I am currently the Chief Community Officer of a contracts lifecycle management software company called Ironclad. Prior to that, I spent most of my career at Google doing legal operations and leading an organization called CLOC. A fun fact about me, I have a pretty classic style, so most items in my closet are going to be ten years old or more.

In this episode of the legal department, I have Mary O’Carroll, who is the Chief Community Officer for Ironclad. Mary is a long-time legal operations professional with a lot of passion for the area. I’m excited to get to know her better and hear more about this. Mary, how are you?

Stacy, thanks so much for having me.

I feel like legal ops. I don’t know what the time period is, but in my recent awareness, it has become more of a force and an essential element of a legal department. I think for a long time, it was nice to have, but now it’s more of an imperative. As I said, you have a lot of passion for this area so I’m sure you’re going to help us appreciate why it’s a must-have.

It’s exciting to see the growth and the prevalence, the stature, the scope of the role change over time. I actually started in legal ops in 2008 when I joined Google. I was at a law firm doing legal ops for a law firm before that, but I started the in-house legal ops role at Google and built out a team there over time. I helped to build and lead an organization called CLOC.

As you mentioned, back then, when we were getting started, nobody knew what this function was. Nobody had heard of it. We were making up the role as we went along. It is fun to see all around the world in companies of every size and industry now thinking about the role, understanding the impact and trying to figure out how they can get started. It’s been a lot of fun.

The Core Elements Of Legal Operations

If it is broad and a frontier. I think when we talked before, you said it could be as simple as billing guidelines, an invoice tracker and a contract management system. What you would say are the core elements of legal ops?

Ultimately, legal operations, to me, is about optimizing the delivery of legal services. It’s that simple. I like to say it’s finding the right balance between the speed, the quality, and the cost of that delivery. When I often speak about legal operations, I’m talking about the in-house corporate legal department function. I started in 2008, but like you’ve said, people are starting to think about it as a new role now. It’s still very much a nascent to an emerging function and role. The organization that I’d mentioned, CLOC, is the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium. We started that organization, and we endeavored to put together what is now known as the CLOC Core 12. That describes twelve function areas or areas of responsibility that could be part of the scope of the role.

The Legal Department | Mary O'Carroll | Legal Operations
Legal Operations: Ultimately, legal operations is about optimizing the delivery of legal services. It’s really that simple.


It’s important to know every department has some mix of these, like you said. Some are dabbling in a piece here and there. That is all considered legal operations, but not every department’s going to be doing all these things, but they might be doing some mix of them and probably endeavor to do all of it, but these are the types of work that are considered under the umbrella of legal ops.

What are these things? I’ll rattle off this CLOC Core 12. Those are business intelligence, financial management, firm and vendor management, information governance, knowledge management, organizational optimization and health, practice operations, project and program management, service delivery models, strategic planning, technology and then training and development. That’s a lot.

I was going to say I’m worn out from the list.

You hear that and you go, “That’s a lot.” Every person who steps into the role and sees this is like, “I have to do all this?” It can be very overwhelming, but again, you don’t have to do all these things, at least not off the bat.

I think that there is a bent or a preconceived notion that legal ops means technology and as you’re listing these CLOC Core 12, I think people do this to various degrees, either manually, analog or with technology, even if they’re not realizing that they’re doing it. For example, your law firm management. You may not have a slick system for that, but you’re looking at those bills and I’m sure you’re tracking your spend. Maybe it’s on an Excel spreadsheet, but these are functions that most people are doing to various degrees.

You’re right. It’s not all about technology. I will say the biggest catalyst right now in terms of bringing in a legal ops function seems to be technology and digital transformation. You’re going to hear that drum beat quite a lot. AI is obviously adding to the acceleration of the need for modernization of everyone’s practices. Of course, there are many other things and tech is not going to be the solution for everything that you do.

Yes, there is a lot. That’s people and process. I think those are the three prongs that we have to work with. People, process and technology. I have countless examples of times in my life, even at Google, where someone said to me, “Mary, we need a tool. We need a platform. We need a technology solution for X, Y, Z.” When you start to dig in there and ask, “What is the problem we’re actually trying to solve? What is the issue? What are you struggling with?” You get into it. It’s often a process issue. It’s often defining roles and responsibilities. It’s often things that have nothing to do with technology.

Sure, maybe tech could play some role, but it’s not the major issue. You’ve already rattled off a few things. There are metrics, reporting, invoices, practice operations and templates. How do you make things more uniform and mitigate risk for the department? Tech is always helpful but you don’t need it to get started, for sure.

Tech is always helpful, but you don't need it to get started. Click To Tweet

If you’re looking at the twelve, are there certain that are must-have, must-dos? Are there maybe three of those? Are there a couple of those that you think are core to any in-house legal department?

I don’t know if you could say 2 to 3 are the must-haves because they are going to differ depending on what is important to you, your GC and your organization and what stage of maturity you are in terms of legal operations. Even without knowingly establishing that function, some groups maybe have finance teams or IT teams that have gotten them partway there and they might be more mature than others in different parts.

Certainly, for a lot of companies that are spending a lot with outside counsel, financial management firms and vendor management is a big place to start. I mentioned digital transformation being the big place for most people to start now. Technology is going to be a big part of that. You can’t do that in a silo. A lot of these are interconnected. You have to think about when you’re putting in technology, what are the practice operations look like.

It totally triggers an examination of what your process is like. We are doing a new exactly document management system, which is, I would say, the foundation of a legal office and looking at your filing conventions, making decisions about what you’re saving, how long you’re saving it, and how to organize it. The tech is the tool, but the work is the people.

At the end of the day, it’s all about something called right sourcing. It’s a term that I like to use when you’re thinking about all the work that comes into your department and what’s the best way to get it done and what’s the right resource to be using. Is it in-house counsel, outside counsel, different types of vendors, technology, or flexible talent? These are all the levers that we have to work with now as an in-house team, and legal ops is all about balancing them.

I think it can be hard to get into an in-house department, which is where I spent most of my career. There are the demands. The inbound requests are so crushing, the bottomless pit of need, as I say, for legal services. It can be hard, even as a leader, to pull your head up and say, “I need to take a pause and figure out what would work best for my department to maybe take some of this noise out of the system.” That would be my why. I would bet, especially now in your role with Ironclad, you probably run into people GCs that are saying like, “What’s the why? Why would I do this?”

Why Legal Operations?

There are so many whys and I think there needs to be so much education in our industry, which is why I’m very grateful that you’ve invited me here to try to reach some new audiences. GCs are busy. Legal departments are busy. We hear that all the time. This is an investment. For those who have worked in, let’s say, another department or company that has had this function, it’s the first thing they do when I see them move into a new GC role. They look around and say, “We don’t have anything. We don’t have processes. We don’t have systems. We don’t have metrics. Where’s my legal ops person?” They put that in place quickly.

However, because it’s new, if you’ve been working in a law firm and you come in-house or if you’ve been in-house for a long time or in the same place that doesn’t have a legal ops function and you’re hearing about this, it’s very much like, “What is this and why do I need it and how am I going to use it?” If you’re a GC who is busy and doesn’t have the time and resources to think about this, you’re actually probably the one who needs it the most.

If you're a GC who is really busy and doesn't have the time and resources to think about legal ops, you're probably the one who needs it the most. Click To Tweet

Legal ops is a force multiplier. Adding that one person is going to allow you to get so much more out of every external dollar you spend and every attorney and every staff member that you have on your team. I try to tell folks, “Go talk to other GCs and closes because they will tell you about the immediate impact that it’s had. I promise you, it will pay for itself manyfold even within the first year.”

The Legal Department | Mary O'Carroll | Legal Operations
Legal Operations: Legal operations is a force multiplier. Adding that one person is going to allow you to get so much more out of every external dollar you spend and every attorney and every staff member that you have on your team.


Let’s talk about maybe more in-depth on the CLOC Core 12. I’m going to ask you to pick a favorite child here. Is there 1 of those 12 that you feel or you’ve seen delivers the biggest bang for the buck?

As I said, they’re so interconnected. I do think financial and vendor management are closely connected. That’s often a big place to start. I’d say the other place that most people start is going to be with contracts.

It’s a pain point.

We all have it. It’s high volume. It’s coming in and doesn’t stop. That is going to fall under practice operation. That sliver of the CLOC Core 12, that’s called practice operations. That can be contract operations, IP operations, or litigation operations. That’s what that is about. Of course, technology is going to play a part in that too.

Since you are with a contract management provider, I’m wondering, you shouldn’t need a burning platform. If you’re busy with a lot of inbounds and requests and implementing a CLM, you don’t go to Best Buy and plug it in. As we were talking about before, it’s the process, taking the time. Can you talk about some of the benefits or what are the special shiny things that a CLM can deliver that folks may not be aware of?

A lot of folks will look at their contract process and say it’s not great, it’s slow. What I hate about it is that it’s the way that we, as a legal department, we are going to interact with all of our internal clients. That’s where you get a good reputation for being legal. You know when people go, “We’ve got to deal with them. They’re so slow.” If we can fix that, of course that accelerates all parts of the business because contracts are integral to your sales team, your procurement team, your HR team. It’s how you buy, it’s how you sell, it’s how you hire. You can’t do anything without that. Is there a way that we can accelerate that? What we have now is called Contracts Lifecycle Management or CLM. This is a term I’m sure everyone’s hearing all the time now.

CLM is everything in the lifecycle from intake to assignment to redlining and back-and-forth negotiations to signature storage. Your repository, reporting and metrics, obligations, management, AI across that whole life cycle. What can that do? You might have a process right now. A lot of people will tell me, “We’ve been doing it this way for so long. It’s not broken. We use email, we use spreadsheets. We might have a management system or a SharePoint to store these things.” It’s very hard for people to find things when they need it. There’s very hard for people to know what’s in those contracts.

What have you agreed to, what’s up for renewal, what’s auto-renewing without your awareness? What’s more exciting to me is the automation of the workflows. As you said, there is a constant stream of stuff coming in. Can we give our internal stakeholders some self-service so they can get stuff done themselves? Can they get the NDA signed? Can they get their MSA? Can they get some sales done?

Where is the value for the legal department? You said this before, like optimizing delivery of services and I don’t need to do an NDA for you. Get it off your plate.

Get it off your plate. That makes everyone happy because nobody wants to “deal with legal.”

Wait for it and where is it priority anyway?

Even for a bigger deal, it’s still that, “Where is it? Who’s assigned to? Has the other side looked at it yet? Did they sign yet?” That asking, going back and forth, you can eliminate that by having a system that shows where things are and transparency. There’s a lot that it can do. You’re right, it’s a big undertaking because it’s cross-functional. There are a lot of ways that you can start quickly and small and expand over time.

I keep going back to the why. I think it’s important for legal leaders, general counsel to take a pause and I think your suggestion to network with other people in your role and find out how this has made their life better. You get your head down in doing the work and there’s all these demands and you’re like, “I don’t know if we can block out six months to think through our process for contract management. We’ve got too many in the queue already.” It can be hard to create that burning platform for you to take action.

I’d recommend, again, starting small. Picking something that nobody wants to deal with that’s not controversial, that you don’t have to worry about twenty people trying to get in a room to agree on the language or the process. Get that done and show the benefit of it.

Business Intelligence In The Legal Department

One of my favorite parts of the Core 12 is business intelligence because I think other parts of the business, such as any business, use this, but I don’t know that it is instinctive for legal service providers to do it. Can you talk about what business intelligence means for legal departments?

It’s data, it’s reporting, it’s metrics. It’s knowing again that right sourcing. How do you make decisions about how you’re going to staff, how you’re going to invest, how are you going to spend your time if you don’t know what’s coming into your department? If you don’t know how long things are taking, how can you improve things? There’s such a need for this. To be honest, it might be one of the harder ones. From my own experience, there’s definitely ways that you can get started. Your finance team has some business intelligence about the spend that is taking place in league.

They wag their finger at you about it. “How are you going to cut this next year?”

What are you going to do about that? How do you get actionable metrics? That takes some time of looking at your current processes, how do you gather the data, how do you figure out what questions you want to answer? Build in those processes to eventually have some automation and to get the data out.

Data is this big word. It’s like liquid gold. Everybody wants a piece of it. Everybody wants to get inside it. That’s another reason why I think contracts management, CLM, is so valuable to legal because if you own all that data, what is going on in your contracts is where the company’s spending money and where they’re investing. There is so much rich information within your contracts that you’re going to be able to, if you’ve organized it, report back on it, see insights of it and come to the rest of your leadership team with strategic decision-making.

Being that strategic partner. It’s a nice way to tie those things together. When we talked before, I was curious about tactics for this. We talked about metrics for success and how you can show that reducing cost is probably the easiest one, but cost avoided, how many hours demonstrate efficiency, or what the legal department does. What are some tactics for that?

6 Go-To Metrics

I have six go-to metrics that I think if you want to think about how you demonstrate the value of the legal department. These are the buckets of metrics that I like to look at. One is revenue accelerated. That’s turnaround time. That’s speed to close. What have we done to make sure that we can help our internal stakeholders get more revenue in the door faster?

How would I show that?

I don’t want to keep talking about content management.

Go to Ironclad.

I put that as my number one, too, because in terms of making legal look good and having the company leadership care, there’s a lot. The other things that I’ll talk about are about saving money and being more efficient. That’s being a good corporate citizen and that’s great and you’ll get a small pat on the back. When you’re like, “We actually helped the company close the deal faster and got millions of dollars in the door this much faster,” that’s when people start to notice and go, “You guys did that? That’s great. Someone should get promoted.”

Revenue accelerated. I love that.

The second would be costs reduced. Let’s say we’re looking at outside counsel and we’ve changed our billing guidelines, done an RFP, or done some rate negotiation. Those are alternative fees that, for example, on the outside counsel piece might be where you’re able to say, “Here’s dollars that we had saved.” There are also costs or expenses avoided altogether. I think that’s one of my ways.

It’s a hard one to nail, though.

That is hard. I think it’s synonymous with risk management and a risk avoided. There are ways that you can look at what this would’ve cost us in the past and what it would’ve cost if we hadn’t done this. Look at some experience that we have for our internal clients. Now it’s much more consistent and it’s got guardrails. You can extrapolate what are the percentage of something would’ve gone wrong, what would the value of that have been? What are the chances and then report.

Some of these are going to be more data-driven. Some of these are going to be softer. The point is you want to tell a story about what you’re doing to demonstrate the value. Some of this is going to be directional. People are going to want to see that you’ve done that. Next one it would be hours saved. We’ve automated some stuff. We don’t look at NDAs anymore. We’ve changed the risk profile or whatever it is. We’ve automated signatures and routing, taking time out of the table.

The system.

It’s great. It means you can start working on more important things and that makes people happier. We go to quality of life and quality of life improvements. That’s, again, working on the right things, making people feel like they’re having an impact versus churning through the day-to-day quality of work improvement. It’s a soft one, but are your clients getting more consistent experiences? Are templates cleaned up? Are we not using things from the past? How many is that?

That was six. I’m trying to think. I feel like cost reduced is going to be my easiest metric to show. Maybe expenses avoided. I feel like those are somewhat related, but as you said, expenses are a risk thing. I’ve only worked in nonprofits, and I feel like I’ve gotten a lot of grace from leadership and my CFOs. They understand the nature of the legal department is you are taking inbounds. You can strategically plan all you want and have your goals for the year, but then you can get walloped with a bunch of class action work, or there could be a scandal or a big employment matter. You are at the service and behest of the company. It is somewhat hard to predict where you’re going to go.

In my past, I’ve done a lot of annual reporting to like make the case, “We are providing value.” I want to talk about ways, if there’s technology or recommendations you have for tracking and being aware of what you’re doing through the year because it was always hard for me to ask, “What did we do? We did that deal and we saved this money.” Is there a way to set that up ahead of time so that you’re tracking what you’re doing throughout the year?

I would say focus. Every department is different. There are going to be large departments with many practice areas, smaller departments where there’s a handful of players. You want to think about how do you measure, let’s say, 80% of the work. Don’t worry about that long tail. There’s always going to be that advice and counsel that goes on and on in trying to figure out a system to report on it and to measure it is probably not worth the amount of effort needed. The metrics and the data, as I mentioned earlier, should be directional.

Let’s look at the current state and see what is coming in, what the demand is, and what resources we have. Going back to right sourcing, how can we start to think about the volume, complexity, and who we’re tasking or what we’re tasking to get that work done? It depends on your department. Obviously, contracts. You can use a contract system. You can use an IP tracking system to see how many patents were filed this year.

If it’s M&A, how many deals? How large were they? Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all-all, but you can start thinking about buckets of work and how you can capture those. How do you capture both the volume of it, the complexity of it, and then what you want to start to report back on is how do we show that we’re getting better over time?

Yeah, that feels hard.

That’s the job of your legal ops person and that’s another reason to go back.

The Legal Ops Professional

Let’s talk about that. As you’re talking, because with the twelve even, there are so many different things you could spend time on. As the GC or even a Deputy GC, you may not have a ton of time for this work. Talk about the legal operations professional. I’m sure if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen one. What are some models for an in-house legal department to have a dedicated resource for that?

I’ll say the ideal situation is to have a dedicated resource, a person in the role to focus on efficiency, the effectiveness, the professional development, the technology and all those things. The nice thing about where we are as an industry is that you don’t have to do it that way anymore. There’s a lot of other resources. You can hire a flex talent person who basically can come in and do it part-time. You can do a hybrid role where you can have a lawyer who’s interested in technology, let’s say, dabble in it and start to think about let’s do some pilots. Let’s try different things. Plenty of consulting and managed services providers will come in and do an assessment, do a project, and even implement processes for you.

There are managed services. Let’s say the technology or the processes stood up. They can even help build and maintain the system and stick around at a low cost and ongoing, let’s say, four hours a month or whatever you’re going to need to make sure that it stays up to date and then you have continuity. While I love the idea of a single person dedicated to the role, there are some things in the role that are going to be more tactical, more day-to-day, blocking and tackling, existing processes, getting reporting data and that ongoing day-to-day stuff you could outsource. There are different ways to do it now, which adds a lot of flexibility depending on what you need.

You’re certainly demonstrating value, but another reason to have data is to get support for more resources. We need a headcount. We need a system. You piqued my interest with the mention of getting an assessment of your department’s efficiency. What assessments could be available?

It’s certainly all those time studies you could do a very high level. One of the first things I tell folks who are, let’s say, starting in a new legal ops role and they’re trying to figure out where should I start? What should I work? What should I prioritize? As you saw, we’ve got this wheel of twelve things that can be very overwhelming. What I also tell general counsel is, “You want to hire for this role.” They often say, “I don’t have time to manage it. I don’t know what to tell them to start on. I don’t know what to work on. That’s why I am hiring them.” I think that’s exactly the point. You want to hire someone who can tell you what needs to get done, tell you what their priorities are, do that assessment, and get things going.

The Legal Department | Mary O'Carroll | Legal Operations
Legal Operations: You want to hire someone who can tell you what needs to get done, know what their priorities are, do that assessment, and get things going.


Yes, you can hire an outside consultancy. You can hire an internal person. There are different ways to do it. What does that assessment look like? What I often say is, let’s take the CLOC Core 12 as a perfect starting point and let’s go through each one of them with my new GC and say, “On a scale of 1 to 5 or 1 to 10, for each one, we’ll start with financial management. On a scale of 1 to 5, how important is this to you for us to excel and optimize and do well?” You rate that and then the next question would be, “On a scale of 1 to 5, how well do you think we’re currently doing in this area?” You’ll start to see where those gaps are between how important it is and how we’re currently doing, which are going to be places where you want to dig in and start.

There might be things like training and development. “We’re doing well and it’s somewhat important or we’re not doing that well but it’s not a burning platform for me right now.” You start to see what’s important, at least to your GC, to get you started. When you get to be more strategic after you’ve gotten the day-to-day trains running on time, the low-hanging fruit under control, you’ve put in some processes, maybe you’ve put in some systems, then I want the legal ops person to start being much more strategic in thinking about the direction of the company. How can I help my GC demonstrate value? How can I help the GC tell the story about what legal’s doing? How are we getting better as we talked about? Also, how do we help our legal department align ourselves better with the rest of the organization? That seems to be everyone’s goal these days.

I’m going to have a conversation with my CFO about this after we get off. I want to shift a little bit to your personal background. You start off by sharing about your role at Google. You started legal ops at Google, is that right?


Do tell. That sounds like quite an undertaking. Did they know they needed it? How did you get into that spot? That’s pretty major.

I think that they did have some foresight. At the time, I was doing I guess what is now known as legal operations at a law firm. I was at ORIC, and I figured it would be very similar to doing legal operations in an in-house legal department. Little did I know. Google had called and said, “We’re growing fast. There’s currently 200 people in the legal department. We have no processes. We’re flying by the seat of our pants and we’re growing so quickly. We need someone to help put things in place.” That was the job description. There weren’t people with the title of legal operations. It was like, “Where should I start?” It started with me going around asking people, “What’s going well in your team? How are you currently doing things? What could be better? What are people spending in their time on that they shouldn’t be?” We were looking for both big and small problems to tackle and then taking them on one by one. We eventually grew the team to over 60 people by the time I left.

That is also a mindblower. How big was the legal department by the time you were a team of 60?

By the time I left, it was about 1,500-plus. It was enormous. I thought 200 was huge when I started. Little did I know it was going to grow so quickly. Absolute hypergrowth. We were a department that was pioneering internet law for everyone. It was an exciting time. Bright people, but definitely, people were flying by the seat of their pants.

Were you bringing order to chaos?

It was complete chaos, Stacy. There were no outside council guidelines. Piles of money, no budgets, no systems, no metrics, no visibility into the spend.

Was it hard for you to put some order to the chaos?

Yeah, for sure. I was brought in to do that and at first it was like, “We don’t want to slow down. Are you going to come in and bring bureaucracy? Are you going to tell us what to do?” A big part of my role when I first started was earning that trust and demonstrating, “I’m actually here to make your job better, not worse. I’m actually going to take stuff you hate to do and make it go away.” It’s threatening at first. Nobody wants their cheese moved and my whole job was to make change. It was definitely scary. People liked the way they were working, but when you start to put order to that chaos, people very quickly say, “Thank God you’re here.”

When you start to put order to chaos, people very quickly go, “Thank God you're here.” Click To Tweet

Were you able to deliver quick wins that helped derive momentum?

Definitely a lot of quick wins. I started with outside counsel as my issue and nobody to play bad cop. Nobody wants to have those tough conversations.

You didn’t mind.

There was a little good cop, bad cop putting process in place there.

That would be fun, actually. I would enjoy that.

I came from the law firm side and so I knew where all the bodies were buried and I knew what to negotiate with them. Over time, bringing in tech and tooling, this was a team that was craving tech and tooling and there wasn’t, to be honest, a lot that was available off the shelf back then. That took time.

It was an experimental culture, though, too. They were probably willing to try things.

We built some of our own janky tools, but they got us some part of the way there. We had some third-party tools that we tried to use, a lot of piecing together data on the backend to try to make reports, and everything worked. It took time and I credit a lot of the work that CLOC did to bring the field of legal operations to the forefront.

Was CLOC in place by the time you were at Google? You were a founder of CLOC, right?

I was one of the original people who came together to put that organization in place. CLOC did not exist when I started, but very shortly thereafter, a few of us found each other.

You needed a little coffee clutch to help you.

Yes, we needed therapy.

The big reason I do the show is because I want to encourage people to build those relationships and build a network. This is another example of you have a challenging but fun job. You are a unicorn and you need to meet other unicorns so you know how to do the job.

A job where there’s no established playbook. You want to talk to other people who are working on the same things because you want to learn from them instead of making the same mistakes. It’s such a great community. People are so willing to share. This is not an area that is competitive amongst competitors. Companies were competitors, but we were all absolutely sharing all of our work and what we learned and here’s who’s good at this and here’s a vendor that you should try and being helpful.

It sounds great. I’ve been on the website and I’m impressed with the tools and the format. Great job building that while you were trying to wrestle the dragons at Google. Is there anything related to professional development outside of that networking bent that you had? You’ve obviously had a great career there and now you’re in a new role and you have your own podcast, which I want you to talk about, too. Any professional development tips for our audience?

Yes, definitely leverage your community. Never start from scratch. I was blessed to grow up at Google, which was a playground for professional and personal development courses and offerings. They had tactical skills like project management and Six Sigma. We had soft skill courses like public speaking, presentations and communications. Things like how to have a difficult conversation or how to lead without authority, how to do change management. Of course, tons of management and leadership and Myers-Briggs and what’s your color and all these types of things. We had training nonstop, which was great. I think I didn’t realize how much I got out of that until I left.

Not everywhere has it, especially for lawyers. I would say a mission I have is to convince lawyers that it is worth investing time in those things.

Those are the skills that the lawyers of tomorrow are going to need. They don’t teach that at law firms. They don’t teach that in law schools. That’s what you learn at business school. It’s what you learn in MBAs and stuff. All these are critical to success and creativity, flexibility and adaptability. All these things are going to be important for the lawyers of tomorrow. We should focus on that in our legal departments because our professional development focus is so much about CLEs and technical ongoing legal training, which is important, too, but this is so much more important now.

Just really quickly, because your passion is infectious, I’m interested in more legal ops conversations. Do you want to give a couple of minutes about your podcast?

Yeah. I also have a podcast, for those who don’t know me. It’s called Pearls On, Gloves Off. It’s a little bit of a play on the fact that I wear pearls every single day and have worn them for 30 years or so, and it’s a thing that I’ve always done.

It’s your brand.

Not intentionally. Just a laziness factor, but it’s a thing. It’s called Pearls On, Gloves Off. Gloves Off because it’s very honest. We try to get transparent about the struggles, the challenges, the wins, the losses of doing this job, and transformation, I think, generally in legal industry. That’s what the podcast is about. We have GCs and clos on. We have legal ops professionals. We have tech companies. We have legal psychologist. We’ve had someone on change management. I’ve had my executive coach on there. A lot of different people who are going to help us progress the modernization of legal.

Last question. I ask everyone the same question. I listened to a pump-up song before the show. What is your pump-up song?

My pump-up song is anything by Linkin Park, which people are always surprised about. I do like good screaming music.

Mary, thanks so much for being on the show. I enjoyed the conversation.

I so appreciate the opportunity. Thanks so much, Stacy.


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About Mary O’Carroll

The Legal Department | Mary O'Carroll | Legal OperationsMary Shen O’Carroll is Chief Community Officer at Ironclad, the #1 contract lifecycle management platform for innovative companies. Prior to Ironclad, she spent 13 years as Director of Legal Operations at Google where she built and managed the operations of the Legal Department allowing the organization to scale from 200 to 1400+ people.

During her tenure at Google, Mary was recognized by Financial Times (2019) as a top Legal Intrapreneur, by American Bar Association as 2018 Women of Legal Tech, by the American Bar Association as Legal Rebel in 2016, and by LegalTech News as Legal Department Operations Director of the Year in 2016. In addition, she recently served as President of the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC), the largest and fastest growing community focused on the business of law. In her early career, she served as the Profitability Manager for Orrick and was an investment banker and strategic management consultant.

Mary is also a passionate leader pushing forward disruptive technology and processes designed to change the future of the legal industry.

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