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Greg Lambert 0:00
And you’re just seeing left and right contract lifestyle management companies. You know, they’re they’re hot right now
Marlene Gebauer 0:07
life cycle, not lifestyle
Greg Lambert 0:11
I think it’s more of a much more of a contract lifestylist.
Marlene Gebauer 0:15
Okay. Fair. Go for it.
Marlene Gebauer 0:25
Welcome to The Geek in Review, the podcast focused on innovative and creative ideas in the legal industry. I’m Marlene Gebauer.
Greg Lambert 0:32
And I’m Greg Lambert. So the amazing Mary O’Carroll from Ironclad joins us to talk about her experiences with leading the change in the legal industry when it comes to legal operations, improving the role of general counsel in corporations, as well as her reasons for starting CLOC. So Mary also discusses why digital contracts are such a hot topic right now. And how the data gathered from digital contracts allows legal departments to be true drivers of innovation for the corporations far beyond just the legal issues. So Marlene, we’ve both been admirers of Mary O’Carroll’s work for a number of years, and we had a great conversation about her overall work in many areas of the legal industry.
Marlene Gebauer 1:13
Yeah, it was a fantastic interview. I really enjoyed it. So stick around for that. But now let’s get to this week’s information inspirations.
Greg Lambert 1:26
Our very own Casey Flaherty brought out some pretty harsh truths in a recent three geeks article entitled, “Maybe don’t be MacGyver- the value of value storytelling.” So I love the title of the time.
Marlene Gebauer 1:39
Yeah, it was a good piece.
Greg Lambert 1:41
Casey advises us not to attempt to be the hero like MacGyver by piecing together a way to get something accomplished, when you really should be having the hard conversations with the powers that be at your organization, to make sure that you’re setting up proper expectations, you’re aligned with your personnel and your resources. And you have long-term success over short-term accomplishments. Casey talks about essentialism in the workflow, and that it is about focusing on where to apply scarce resources, rather than attempting to spread those limited resources very thinly across too many projects. And the thing I like is, he suggests that you should politely learn how to say no when you do need to say no, and knowing how to say “I told you so” when you’re no gets overwritten by and things just don’t necessarily work out.
Marlene Gebauer 2:37
Okay, so that is great. But so in the next installation, I want him to expand upon how you politely say no. And also, how do you say I told you so in a way that you know, isn’t going to get you fired?
Greg Lambert 2:55
That’s true. And I look forward to that as well. So, Marlene, I think this article is a great lesson for almost any level of professional in an organization, whether it’s a project manager, a librarian, or even the managing partner of a firm. And as you said Casey’s promising a few more of these follow-up articles to this one. So everyone be on the lookout for that.
Marlene Gebauer 3:16
Yeah, I know I will for sure. Both my inspirations have to do with automation and robots this week. The first is that Singapore is trialing two robots called Xavier, which I thought was very millennial, the name, to catch and prevent undesirable behavior, such as smoking hawking goods and breaking COVID-19 rules. So while Xavier looks a bit like a Dalek, they will not kill you, and they will not even touch you. They will, they will, however, report rule-breaking and send out messages to the public. So they let the mob kill you for infractions. I don’t know if they use facial recognition to identify people to issue citations, but it certainly seems like a logical next step if they don’t. This is a little creepy.
Greg Lambert 4:05
Yeah, I don’t know. Maybe kind of reminds me of the what was the social scores that China is doing? that we’ve talked about a couple episodes ago?
Marlene Gebauer 4:15
Greg Lambert 4:15
Yeah, I’m not. I’m not a big believer in having the robots look for violations.
Marlene Gebauer 4:22
Walk around, walk around and monitor us? Yeah, No, me neither. I mean, you know, fine. It’s great. It’s, it’s, you know, okay, it’s COVID infractions and it’s smoking and, you know, everyone’s like, okay, you know, we’re on board with that. But what’s the slippery slope? What’s, what’s the next thing?
Greg Lambert 4:38
Yeah, exactly. Well, Marlene listeners may know that, during the pandemic, I’ve actually dropped a few pounds this year.
Marlene Gebauer 4:45
So many people hate you right now just for saying that. I’m just putting that out there as speaking on behalf of the rest of the world.
Greg Lambert 4:54
Well, part of you know, part of it is I you know, I’ve kind of had this obsession with my Peloton bike So that that has helped out a bit. But I was reading today thatO’Melveny & Myers is offering all of their employees free access to Peloton’s digital platform for workouts as well as discounts on peloton bikes and other equipment. And O’Melveny is the first law firm to sign up for peloton his new corporate wellness program, but betting they’re not going to be the last. And as we discussed with Mary O’Carroll, later in the show, we know that law firms tend to follow the lead of other law firms. And so I’m betting that this is one where other firms will have that fear of missing out if they don’t jump in on this program.
Marlene Gebauer 5:40
Well, I certainly hope so in this case, that would be great. My next inspiration is a blend of a couple of different articles that I read about the boom of job automation after COVID. For example, the next time you go through a drive-thru to get fast food, you may have an AI voice taking your order. And this is a direct result from the loss of sales early in COVID. From safety concerns during COVID. And a lack of employees after COVID. Reports from store owners are that the AI works great. And you know it’s more reliable than humans. I mean, you know, it doesn’t get sick. It’s always on time. So they love it. Oh, yeah. So
Greg Lambert 6:21
does the voice sound better than our sure Welcome to [static]
Marlene Gebauer 6:29
I actually listened to a news report that sort of covered some of these issues as well. And I did hear the voice. And it was it’s, it’s interesting, it’s a female voice. And it’s an you know, because again, service jobs female voice, that’s another thing that’s come out and some of these articles, and you got to be careful about that, that you start making, like, okay, certain types of service jobs are female. So anyway, it was female. And it was very pleasant. And you know, she just asked what your otter was. The question becomes our service sector jobs destined to be automated and be a long term threat to workers? past experience suggests that the shift will actually create more jobs. And this is something we talked to Joe Raczynski about, you know, there could be increased sales due to lower cost goods, and you know, you need people, maybe, to make the goods, even if the more jobs outcome does come to pass, there’s going to be a painful time, which would be now, when the shift takes place, and will disproportionately impact lower-level workers. Some suggest that they’re going to be calls for the institution of robot taxes to even the playing field between humans and robots. You know, the question is, is it really going to discourage you know, innovation? Is it really going to discourage companies from buying the robots? And, you know, maybe if if it doesn’t, that’s a good thing. You know, the tax revenue could be used to fund retraining programs for those who are displaced.
Greg Lambert 8:02
Yeah, I think that’s been kind of the pro robot tax people that’s been what they’ve said is that you can’t replace you know, 10s of thousands or millions of workers, and also not pay the taxes that you would normally pay. So it’s gonna be interesting to see how that goes, because there’s gonna be more and more of these robot workers out there. And that wraps up this week’s information inspirations.
Marlene Gebauer 8:34
For far too long legal departments suffered from being seen as a cost center for companies, and a place where business philosophy and ideas go to die. Today’s guest has worked for decades on finding ways for GCs and legal operations professionals to show their value and be strategic partners with the C-Suite leadership.
Marlene Gebauer 8:58
We’d like to welcome Mary O’Carroll chief community officer for Ironclad. Mary, welcome to The Geek in Review.
Mary O’Carroll 9:04
Thanks so much for having me.
Greg Lambert 9:06
So Mary, most people will know you as one of the pioneers in the area of legal operations, you know, first at a big law firm, when you were at Orrick, then at a large and ever expanding in house legal department at Google. And along the way, you were also instrumental in getting the corporate legal operations consortium or CLOC up and running. And now because that wasn’t enough, you’ve now joined the vendor side with Ironclad so you have literally hit the four corners of the legal industry in the past 20 years. And I’ve just loved to know what were some of the things that you loved most about each of these four corners?
Mary O’Carroll 9:48
Yeah, it’s been a great experience a wild ride. And I think one thing that has been that stood out from all the organizations that I’ve been a part of in the past is this innovation mindset. You know, I started my career in legal at Orrick. And they were at the time and continue to be one of the more forward-thinking law firms really open to taking risks, trying new things being a first mover, and I just loved working in that kind of environment where there was sort of no fear of going first and, you know, trying new things. Google then, you know, sort of knocked on my door next. And one of the reasons that I sort of hesitated to jump and leave, or it was because I loved that sort of culture of innovation. And as I learned more about Google through my interview process, obviously, you know, very, very focused on innovation and trying new things and very much the launch and iterate mindset, which I love. Same at CLOC, same an Ironclad, you know, both organizations that are trying to disrupt and make things better for the entire industry. And so it has been really great seeing it from kind of all four sides. There’s, there’s a few sides, I haven’t been a part of yet, you know, law, schools, consultancies and alternative service providers,
Marlene Gebauer 11:03
there’s still time,
Mary O’Carroll 11:04
there’s still time, there’s worked with a lot of them on the side as well, and know those folks really well, too. And, you know, I just think it’s, it’s such an exciting time to be in any corner of this industry with sort of all the change that’s happening and being at the center of it.
Greg Lambert 11:20
Yeah, I didn’t want to gloss over the part that you said about Orrick, not being afraid to go first. Because we’ve said this before, one of the problems that we’ve had, especially in large law firms is that no one wants to go first. But no one wants to really go third, either. So they’re looking for that first mover and then jumping on the bandwagon. So I mean, that’s not a small deal for a law firm to take the risk to go first. So
Marlene Gebauer 11:47
that’s it’s a big financial risk.
Mary O’Carroll 11:49
Yeah. And of course, I mean, we all know how, how fast following the rest of the law firms are right, when once one does something, and is successful, or you know, is getting a competitive edge, they’ll all follow. So it really just takes that first one. I remember when I was working at Orrick, we were talking about what it would take to really change the business model of the law firms. And the COO, who I worked for there, Doug Benson was, you know, again, a really forward thinker, and he said to me, it’s gonna take one of the am law 50, or am law 100, to go first and to make a really big move, and then if they’re successful, everyone will follow really quickly. But that’s a big risk, right? That’s a big, big first step to really change the business model.
Marlene Gebauer 12:35
You brought legal business acumen to the legal industry and challenged the notion that law firms and legal departments can be successful simply by having the best lawyers practicing law. When you joined Orrick to lead the change in their legal operations process, what did you find attractive about the legal industry? And what are some of the persistent challenges in legal that motivate your desire to make it a better industry?
Mary O’Carroll 12:59
I love this question. Because I think it’s just part of my personality to be laser-focused on efficiency, right? Like, if I think about my personal life, everything I do has an efficiency focus, the way I work out, you know, I do these high-intensity workouts, it’s
Marlene Gebauer 13:13
We need to see her house. Just based on this conversation on here, and like, I am sure that it is it is perfect.
Mary O’Carroll 13:21
I don’t know about that. But I do try to get as much done in a short amount of time as possible. We’re all time poor, right? So I was saying I do like my workout routine is, you know, as efficient as possible, how much intensity you can jam into, you know, 45 minutes, and then when I cook, it’s always like, what 30-minute meal can I make to just get something at the table. And so I feel like that’s just part of my personality. And then from a professional perspective, I’ve also, you know, had a business background. So not being a lawyer, I was always kind of trained to look for issues, right to be an issue spotter, find problems, and then to go about fixing them. And that’s the part of the consultant mindset that I had. So I think once I got to Orrick, that was my first adventure into the world of the legal industry and had my first peek in there. And it struck me almost immediately that a lot of things were broken, you know, or backwards, or that needed changing that needed modernizing that needed to be realigned with, you know, the clients or just needed to have something disrupt that industry. And I kind of felt like, once I saw it, you know, I couldn’t unsee it, it’s almost like, you know, you see a mess, and you gotta, it’s gonna bother you until you fix it. So I kind of feel like I had to keep at it, you know, after all these years, because once I saw it, I couldn’t unsee it and it’s still not done. It’s not fixed. And so the journey continues, like you said, from different corners of the industry that try to move the needle. And then I think your other question was, you know, what are some of the challenges that continue to persist? And they are the same challenges, you know, that we seen over the last 20 years, I’ve mentioned the misalignment of incentives, right? We all know about the billable hour and how that hasn’t really helped law firms want to become more efficient, effective to leverage technology, at least in the past. There is a need for more modernization and technology, tooling, you know, that’s more focused on efficiency in the industry. And then another challenge that I think we continue to run up against regularly and legal operations is just the fact that the status quo is okay. Right. So we spend so much time with our stakeholders, trying to even convince them that there is a problem here or that things can be improved, right? If it’s not broken, why fix it? And we’re constantly trying to align on. Can we agree that there’s even a problem here to start with before we try to fix it? And you know, a lot of times people will tell you, everything’s fine. We just need more headcount on our budget, right? There’s nothing, that’s what you always hear.
Greg Lambert 15:58
revenue will fix everything.
Mary O’Carroll 16:00
Yeah. And when we get down to it, of course, you know, we know that there are areas of improvement.
Greg Lambert 16:05
Well, I’m just curious how far since you joined at Orrick, how far have you think, do you think the needle has moved as far as legal operations in law firms?
Mary O’Carroll 16:18
It’s hard for me to say because I’ve only worked inside one of them. And so I can really only comment now as an outsider, and I do find it difficult to know what’s really happening versus, you know, cutting through,
Greg Lambert 16:31
I’m guessing what you’re saying is probably what’s happening.
Marlene Gebauer 16:35
I mean, I know CLOC has had the opportunity to kind of see, or at least be presented sort of different innovative solutions from from law firms.
Greg Lambert 16:45
Yeah, and let me rephrase it just a little bit, is that how much do you think has been real change versus how much do you think has been just public relations talking about how they want to change or ideas that they have?
Mary O’Carroll 17:01
So that’s why I think it’s really hard to cut through and know what’s really happening. I mean, I do think that there are some firms that are truly embracing change. And they’re thinking about hiring different types of roles within the firm staffing their engagements differently, you know, working as more of a partner with the clients. And then there are certainly those that are kind of either completely denying the fact that anything’s happening and looking at their profits growing year over year and being quite happy with the status quo. And then there’s those that I sort of call the experimenters. And those are the firms that you know, are trying to do new things, but it just feels a bit separate from the core of the business, right, they might create, like an innovation center innovation role. But it’s, it’s almost like a separate arm of the firm. And the rest of the firm is still doing business as usual. And they’re sort of experimenting in this one little hub. So it feels like you know, a little bit of dipping their toe in the water, a little bit of for show you as a client, it’s always been for us, we want to see the firms really innovate and transform for their own sake, not necessarily for their clients, you know, not necessarily to think about new revenue streams or new AI to show us, we kind of just want them to be more efficient, you know, what knowledge management are you leveraging so that you’re not recreating the wheel for me every time you know, we try to hire a firm, you’ve probably done this 50 times, what have you learned from your past engagements that you can use over and over? And it just seems like everything is always still starting from scratch? So it’s, again, the internal investment that personally I’m the most interested in?
Marlene Gebauer 18:38
Yeah, that’s actually an important point to highlight. Because I think normally what you’re hearing from firms is like, well, we are innovating, because that is what our clients want us to do, and we’re innovating to improve our service to them. So it’s, it’s that’s the message that you’re always hearing, rather than saying, you know, you know, we actually should just innovate for ourselves, and we should just do things better for ourselves and for our own work process.
Mary O’Carroll 19:02
Right? I mean, that there’s two levers, right? I always say for law firms, there’s the revenue lever, and the expense lever, and so much of the innovation is focused on the revenue lever. And there’s this other lever that they can still use to become more profitable and, you know, invest in their own infrastructure.
Marlene Gebauer 19:20
Interesting. Yeah. So how did your experiences at a law firm at Orrick shaped the way you wanted to see corporate legal operations run at Google? And how did that influence your collaboration with your peers to create CLOC?
Mary O’Carroll 19:34
Yeah, so going back to again, those misaligned incentives right, I sort of already knew that the law firms were not going to be the big drivers of change in the industry. We’d seen that right there. It’s so I knew that the change that we needed to see what’s going to happen from corporate legal departments, and the clients and that’s why I was really excited to be able to press for change. from, you know, a name like Google a very large, influential client that could probably get their voice heard and make things happen. And I almost felt like it was part of our responsibility, you know, as a company, as legal department like Google to influence change and make that happen in the industry. And then going to, you know, how did that influence collaboration with CLOC, I started at Google, I’d seen what the law firms were doing, I kind of felt like I knew where some of the bodies were buried, and, you know, was able to make some quick changes. But then there were also bigger sort of industry changes that we were looking for. And when I was a Google, I felt like the first couple years over and over, I was told, whether it was from firms or tech providers, or anyone out there, they would say, Yeah, no, you’re the You’re the only one asking for this, you know, whether I said I wanted this kind of report, they would say, yeah, it’s funny, we talked to a lot of corporations, and you’re the only legal department asking for this. And so I sort of realized that, you know, we can’t be the only ones asking for these are very basic things, there’s got to be another legal department out there that’s focused on efficiency, I can’t be the only one in this made up legal ops role. And so shortly thereafter, found a bunch of other companies out there in Silicon Valley. That, you know, that’s the story that was the birth of CLOC, a bunch of us got together realized, we all had the same function, we were kind of struggling with the same challenges. And just the power of a community and the power of, you know, multiple voices coming together to create a movement is really what happened. So having other companies that cared about efficiency, about effectiveness, about metrics about doing things differently, and putting a bit more pressure, not just on firms, but on the industry and our own departments to do things differently. And, you know, suddenly, I wasn’t the only voice in the room. And that’s where you started to see real movement happen.
Greg Lambert 21:53
So you called the law firms bluff on that?
Mary O’Carroll 21:57
I knew what’s going on on the other side.
Greg Lambert 22:01
So Mary, we’re gonna circle back in a few minutes to the legal ops questions again, but want to talk about your move over to Ironclad. So Jason Boehmig, recruited you to join them, they’re ironclad this year. And in the two hires that a lot of us saw this year between you and Alex Su, you know, Ironclad is building, it’s what it’s calling this community, both an internal and an external community. So I want to just kind of start off by letting you explain what it is that Ironclad means when you talk about community and what you’re doing to develop and lead there.
Mary O’Carroll 22:37
Yeah, it’s so it’s so interesting, and has so many parallels with the early days of legal operations, and you know, creating this new function. We’re creating a new community that’s going to be focused on digital contracting, that’s sort of how I explain it. And that is to aim, you know, the digital contracting aims to create sort of a new standard for business contracting. And it’s the idea that we can connect people, processes, and data that’s involved with business contracts, and, and so that companies can execute agreements sort of smarter, faster, better. And what we’ve realized, you know, I think everyone sort of realizes that, when you want to create big disruptive change and transformation in an industry and something like renewing a process that’s been around, and kind of the same way forever and ever, which is contracting, you can’t do that with software alone. And Ironclad is an incredible product. And it will be the one that takes us to the next level. But you’re gonna need more than just technology, right? We always talk about people, process, and technology making that change, and you do need the people. So Jason came to me, it’s always been part of Ironclad’s DNA, it’s always been really important to him as a founder to have a community focused organization. And we’ve seen that in Ironclad really before I started. So what’s happening now is we’re just investing in it more kind of taking it to the next level, doubling down in elevating, educating, and connecting our customers with each other. So having been part of the Legal Ops, community and field, you know, for a long time, and having already created a community for this space, I know how important that is to all of our success, when we’re doing something very new. And we’re doing it on our own in our own companies. It can be very lonely and very difficult, right? Because you feel like you’re the only one working on this, this uphill battle and change management. And transformation is very challenging. And so there’s, you know, there’s missteps, there’s lessons learned, there’s best practices to be shared amongst our community. And we have found that so much of the innovation, and new ideas about how to do things, whether it is with our tools and our technology, or just with different changes in process, all of that can be accelerated and improved when people are talking to each other. And so that’s what we’re creating is an online forum, an in person events, but really creating a place for our users and anyone really interested in digital contracting, to come together, to connect, to network, to show what they’ve done to shine, right, create a platform for them to create their own personal brand. But really, it’s about their own success and helping with the success of the deployment of Ironclad in their own departments in their careers.
Marlene Gebauer 25:23
Given all we can do now with digital contracting, what if any, are the are the key points in the contracting process that are broken? And how did we end up there?
Mary O’Carroll 25:35
It is, it is all very broken.
Marlene Gebauer 25:39
Where should I start??
Mary O’Carroll 25:42
So I think the problem today is this. So departments, legal departments, in particular, talk so much about how do we show our value, we want to be more than just a cost center, right? They want to be a strategic partner to the CEO, to the business, and we often talk about, that’s the new GC’s role. And yet legal is often looked at as the place where, you know, business velocity, and ideas go to die. I mean, sadly, that’s kind of reputation that legal gets. And to me, it’s always been because of contracts. Contracts are the major touchpoint with legal in the business. And they are often to blame for kind of this reputation that you know, is misconception, but it is the reputation that we often have. And so I think today, contracts have become this very rigid and time-consuming process, it creates friction and a delay, it delays, you know, the ability to kind of execute on business operations to close deals for revenue purposes. And we all know the speed of business, you know, getting work done is only increasing day to day, and yet contracts continue to slow us down. So I think that’s one part of it, right? We’re all feeling more pressure to, to scale, to do things faster, to be more efficient. And then the other side of the coin on the problem is that we’ve lost the original purpose of the contract, right? They take so much energy and time, but then the value is kind of gone. Right? We create them, and then we forget about them, we stick them in a box, and we only revisit them when we absolutely have to. Whereas, you know, I think there’s a lot of value to be unlocked in the data in the contract. And it’s become this thankless and unavoidable task, you know, rather than something really strategic. So that’s, I mean, that’s a lot of the problem, right? It’s highly administrative. Now it feels like it’s lost its strategic value. And worst off, I think it’s starting to erode the relationships that the legal department has with the business. And that’s never a good thing.
Greg Lambert 27:40
Well, you know, Ironclad, I think announced earlier this year, you know, that with your funding is now a unicorn startups of valuation over a billion. And you’re seeing, you know, a lot of contract lifecycle management companies popping up everywhere. So what is going on in the industry right now to make the CLM process and companies working to fix that such a hot item right now?
Mary O’Carroll 28:07
Yeah, it reminds me of kind of where e-discovery was right. exploding? Yeah. So I mean, and I think the opportunity is enormous, right, we just laid out the problem. And that is a problem that every single company has, because there is no company out there that doesn’t deal with contracts. So whether you’re big or small, any sort of industry, any part of the world, you have this problem, which makes, again, the opportunity huge to solve. And if you can solve it, if you can improve it, it’s not just solving the legal function and how we operate in the legal department, but it’s going to improve the entire organization. So you start to create value for the legal department to the rest of the company. And, and it’s not just about speed, either, right? It’s about data. It’s about better control, better compliance, better transparency into your business operations. And so the market opportunity is huge. The opportunity for improvement is huge. And, you know, I call it the 80% problem, because everybody has this problem. I see this as kind of the next wave of innovation, massive transformation and change. And I also think that there’s enough momentum now that contracts, as a process can be really transformed, probably in the next five years, like we’ve got the technology, we’ve got the momentum, we’ve got the communities to do that. Whereas, you know, I think a lot of the other challenges we have in legal are going to take a lot longer.
Greg Lambert 29:36
I’m just wondering, I floated a thought to a friend of mine that is also working on CLM process. And that was if you can shore up your contracts, that it’s much more likely to prevent other legal issues from happening, such as litigation, arbitration, even in intellectual property. Did I have some foresight there? Or am I thinking too big?
Mary O’Carroll 30:05
No, no, I think that’s that’s absolutely true. I mean, that’s part of the issue, right. Like I said, we execute contracts, we put them in a box, we don’t know what’s in them. And that’s like a very common problem when you could talk to legal departments, they say, I don’t even know what’s in our contracts, you know, and so you lose control. You don’t know if you’re complying with what you’ve, you know, agreed upon. You don’t know. Anything that that’s sort of in their language.
Marlene Gebauer 30:30
Yeah, there’s risk. So what do you think is the next big ticket solution out there?
Greg Lambert 30:39
Well, what should we be investing in now?
Mary O’Carroll 30:43
I sort of bet my career on Ironclad.
Marlene Gebauer 30:45
really, it’s like, What does what’s the next? Pull out your crystal ball? And what do you think?
Mary O’Carroll 30:50
So if we put sort of Ironclad in digital contracting aside as the next big thing. Other than that, I think the next area that’s having a moment is workflow automation. We’re hearing a lot about how manual the processes are, right? So many manual processes in legal and coordinating between different teams. And I think part of it also is just the fact that there is no real enterprise software for all the legal practice areas, right? We don’t have Oracle SAP for finance, we don’t have Workday, we don’t have Salesforce for sales, illegal has a bunch of tools. And I think it will stay that way for the foreseeable future. Just because we’re nascent, and you know, sort of processes have to settle down, and we need standard operating procedures and standardized everything, sort of until then you’ve got a lot of different systems, and you’ve got to integrate them. And when you do so there’s a lot of manual processes. And so workflow automation seems to be something people are talking about a lot.
Marlene Gebauer 31:53
So Mary, what are the key contributions that legal operations professionals play in successful communications and solutions development in and between law firms and legal departments?
Mary O’Carroll 32:03
Well, between law firms and legal departments, facilitating communications is kind of one of our key roles. We want to make sure that our us as clients are very clear on what’s being asked. And I think that’s oftentimes where things break down. I’ll tell a little, little quick story here. We once did this study, with some partners over at Harvard Law School, we talked to a bunch of the Google lawyers trying to better understand how do you measure quality when it comes to legal work or law firms? Right, that’s the eternal question that we’re all trying to answer. And we were asking our attorneys, like, how do you rate your experience with law firms? How do you know if they’re doing a good job, you know, what makes you like one more than the other? And the feedback that we received during the study was actually really a bit surprising. So, you know, subject matter expertise was one thing that came up. But when we sort of pressed them on that like, Well, how do you know that their advice is good? How do you know that they’re an expert? And it came down to two things. The first was responsiveness, which is just, you know, how quickly are people getting back to me when I need them? And the second is, do they know what I want? Or do they know what I need? And so I pushed our attorneys on this because I said, you’re basically asking your firm’s to be a mind reader, then they said, well, the firm’s should work with us enough that they know, you know, what our products are, and how quickly I need it, and what format I need it back in. And I shouldn’t have to tell them that. And this was a real eye-opening moment for our legal team, because we said, well, that’s a big problem, right? You’re expecting your firm’s, to know exactly what you’re asking for what level of detail you want them to go into how many, you know, hours, they should be spending what you know, is this a quick and dirty analysis? Is this, yes, scour the earth? And they’re just like, yeah, they should know if I want it any, you know, bullet points in an email or a memo. And I thought, this is where we got to come in. And so we spend a lot of time trying to educate our legal departments that law firms cannot read your mind, you should not expect them to. And it’s our job to really define the scope of the engagement very clearly upfront, and that will help you eliminate so many more challenges and sort of like, you know, what happened here? Why did you spend so many hours on these kinds of conversations that will emerge on the back end, if we just have that well-defined in the front? So to answer your question about how do we facilitate communications like that, for us, was kind of the one big thing is defining the scope and being very clear and communicating what’s expected from the law firms
Greg Lambert 34:40
That it kind of reminds me of when the outside counsel guidelines just ballooned in size, that I think at some point that took hold the, you know, were you expecting them to read your mind, and then all of a sudden was like, Oh, well, we’ll just write down everything that you know, we want From what you can eat, you know, after hours to how things should be formatted, and we’re gonna put it in the 600 page outline. And, you know, it’s kind of like professors saying, well, it was in the syllabus, but you know, Well, yeah, but you know, we didn’t really read that.
Mary O’Carroll 35:17
Right? I mean, imagine how hard that is for the firm’s with every single client has a different 600-page outline.
Greg Lambert 35:23
Yeah, I don’t have to imagine it again. So Mary, I wanted to talk to you, you know, one of the other things besides, you know, e-discovery was hot. But if you think back even slightly before that, you know, knowledge management was was also one of the big pieces of the industry that expanded. And so I want to, I want to tie that into the data that we’re getting now from the CLM systems, in what they’re bringing into an organization into a law firm. What are some of the data points that you think are really important, or that will have a lasting effect on the industry that we’re going to get out of the CLM systems like ironclad?
Mary O’Carroll 36:05
So much of it sort of still remains to be seen. And I’m excited about this, because it’s not like we can look back and say, Oh, we used to use the data in our sale in our contracts, right, we’ve actually never had real access to them. And that that’s why I’m particularly excited about what Ironclad is calling digital contracting, where we’re basically taking the contract and turning into different pieces of data rather than, you know, it being a documented It looks like a document and you know, acts like a document. But really, each piece of that contract is now data and you’re able to after it’s executed, kind of know, and you can control those things, and you can change them. But from a what do you do with those data points afterwards? You know, it’s sort of limitless, like the sales team, the finance team, the procurement team, has never had the opportunity to look into everything that we’ve procured or agreed upon, or, you know, when are our renewals, I mean, the most basic things are kind of out there. But I do think there’s a real opportunity for the legal department again, to demonstrate its value, because while many legal departments are the owners of their CLM, and so when you’re able to show up at a meeting with your head of sales, or your head of finance, or your CEO, even, and now you’re bringing data about your business operations, and what’s happening, and that’s the source of truth, you know, Salesforces is one method, but this is where the real agreements are and kind of what is set in stone. And so having that data and bringing that to your meetings with them, suddenly really earns you that seat at the table. Like it’s not even that you have a seat, people are going to want you in the room, because you now have, you know, the most information about what’s happening in your business operations.
Marlene Gebauer 37:57
So Mary, and looking at your history, you know, one could see it as bringing business skills to the legal industry. We’ve just talked about how you’ve challenged lawyers at Orrick, and then at Google, to think beyond their role as legal advisors and more as business partners and true business executives. Are lawyers, their own worst enemy, when it comes to running the business of law? You know, what are the challenges you’ve seen?
Mary O’Carroll 38:21
Lawyers are good people, with lawyers, but I think there has been just, there’s real barriers to change in this industry that have been around for decades, right. And we talked about some of them like that misaligned incentives and the sort of lack of catalysts for change in law firms, before legal ops emerged on the scene. And so it’s sort of nobody’s fault. It’s almost like a perfect storm of barriers to disruption that were around for a very long time. And if you think about lawyers, you know, more specifically, a, I’ve sort of had this real interesting revelation over the years, and that they’re not trained on anything business-related in law schools, right. So law schools is another area that needs to be transformed. But then they go to their firms. And they’re, again, not trained on sort of any business operations or business skill set at the firms. And then they come in house and we tell them to focus on it. So how are they supposed to do that without having seen it, felt it, you know, learned about it. And just recently, I was at Tech GC conference where I was chatting with a bunch of newly hired General Counsel, right, their first role as General Counsel, mostly startup companies, but they were recruited directly from a law firm. So if you think about that, that means they’ve never worked a day in their life in a corporation, they’ve never worked cross functionally. They’ve never worked with finance and marketing, or IT. They don’t know how well functioning department runs or haven’t seen it. They’ve never managed a team. They’ve never hired employees. I mean, it’s, it’s crazy to think that now they’re in charge of all these things, and they’ll tech and tooling and business processes and I sort of like scratched my head as they’re asking me all these questions. And I said, How are these folks expected to run a department? If they don’t immediately hire a legal ops person? Because they don’t have that training? They don’t. They don’t know what, you know, good looks like yet. And so, you know, I think the first thing that they need to do is hire a right-hand legal ops professional to focus on that business stuff. So, so they can focus on, you know, being a good partner to the CEO, and being strategic and substantive. But yeah, so I think that’s, that’s part of the challenge, you know, we expect all this change. And we talked about the business of law, and yet all the folks in positions of leadership have absolutely no training on that. So,
Greg Lambert 40:39
Mary, I’m gonna, I’m gonna ask this question. It’s gonna be a little long, so bear with me, but it’s been something that I’ve wanted to ask you for years. And that is, you know, when CLOC was created, you know, I was in a law firm and watched it. So to me, it felt like there was a, it was a very small community. That was it was extremely careful on how it expanded. So in a way, the story I was reading from the actions taken by you and the others that started CLOC was that it was there to redefine legal Ops, for corporate legal departments, and how those corporate legal departments worked within their companies with the C suites. And in a way, they kind of placed a pretty obvious barrier between outside counsel law firms and CLOC members. And so you know, most legal consortiums, I think I’ve seen or where they want to make everyone feel like we’re all one big community, and that it’s one big happy family. And as someone in a law firm, it didn’t feel that way for CLOC. So you know, I had much more of a feel of big law isn’t who CLOC is going to cater to. And so that’s an extremely long way of asking the question of, what did you want CLOC to mean for in house legal ops? And what value did it bring to law firm’s legal ops?
Mary O’Carroll 42:00
Yeah. So I think there actually is a pretty big misconception there. And from the start, one of the values that we established at CLOC was that we would say we would embrace the ecosystem. And we just didn’t have the resources, right. It was a grassroots movement, it grew organically. Our first and foremost purpose was to help legal ops professionals in their day jobs, you know, sharing best practices with each other. So that was our initial focus. And in the first few years, that’s where we focused our attention. And we certainly could not have anticipated the success and the growth of the organization. And very quickly, you know, sort of realized we wanted that CLOC wasn’t a professional organization for legal ops professionals, it was a movement, and we continued to call it a movement, right? Because it was going to be a big catalyst for change in the industry, not just for corporate legal, but for the whole ecosystem. And so from the beginning, our events, you know, we always made it a point to welcome everyone, everyone can be a part of it and participate. But we did not have, you know, staff, it was a bunch of people like me with full-time jobs trying to run this organization. And so we had to, like you said, expand slowly and intentionally. So when I became president, beginning of 2019, the first thing I did was build out a team, we hired a bunch of full-time professionals and executive director, so that we could scale and expand and as soon as we had sort of the infrastructure and people to support that, we started by opening up to law firms. So law firms were the first group outside of corporate legal departments that we sort of embraced and welcome in as members. And then as soon as we were able to continue to scale, we opened it up to sort of anyone in the world, anyone who’s interested in this movement and the change.
Greg Lambert 43:50
I have to say, Mary, that this question, in our last interview that we did with we had some people from HighQ from Thomson Reuters, I was amazed when we were done, I realized we did not mention COVID, or does virus, or lockdown, or, and I think that’s the first one since, like, February of last year at that we didn’t sneak that in there. So, you know, it’s kind of amazing how these have made their way down to the bottom of the list now. So sorry, just a side note on that. So Mary, you know, increased remote work has obviously been one impact on legal operations as a result of COVID. What other areas should legal operations be focused on now? And in the future, based on what we learn from COVID? And how it’s kind of upended the traditional work model?
Mary O’Carroll 44:41
Yeah, I think one of the biggest impacts of COVID for the legal industry has been the acceleration of change, and in particular, focus on legal technology. So I think we talked a lot about people and processes before and you know, those who had the budgets were investing in legal tech. But now it seems like every company is really more and more focused on where can we leverage legal technology. And that is because of our focus on data. Like you said, remote work, which results in more and more collaboration necessary more working in the cloud, speed of execution is only increasing with just business generally. COVID also, in the beginning, you know, we all had to tighten the belts because of the uncertainty in 2020. And I think it continues to have left this sort of cloud of uncertainty, and business culture of being a little bit more controlled and restrained. And so we’ve all tried to focus really hard on you know, where should we be prioritizing the limited resources that we have, where should we be investing, and you need data to make those decisions, and you need legal tech to be able to gather that data and to report on it and to give you them important metrics. So I think in the past, where a lot of us spent time trying to sort of sell the idea that business intelligence and data analytics and data-driven decision making was really important, even to a department like legal. And we’re faced with a lot of resistance about that. Now, it seems like something everyone is embracing and wants, you know, immediately and is focused on investing. And so I think that’s pretty exciting.
Marlene Gebauer 46:22
So I’m going to switch gears on this one a little bit. Internationally, you know, where are you seeing the most interesting trends in legal operations? And how are you know, international economics and politics influencing change?
Mary O’Carroll 46:39
I just think it’s more of the same. So where we’ve seen an explosion of legal operations in the US, I think we’re just a few years ahead of the rest of the world. And yet, in the last year and a half, two years or so I’ve seen a lot more focus from the rest of the world. So not just the UK and Australia, but much more. South America, Africa, Asia, the rest of Europe, really focused on trying to understand how do I set this roll-up for success? How do I hire for it? How do I get started? And so I think in past years, sort of outside the primary, you know, UK and Australia, where we’re seeing more maturity in legal operations, sort of a fast follow of the US, the rest of the world is now following pretty quickly and investing in technology, investing in people and headcount in this area. And the interest has just to me, it’s exploded, there’s a lot more talk, there’s a lot more conversations that I’m having with folks around the world. So it’s really exciting to actually see that take place.
Marlene Gebauer 47:45
Are there particular areas within legal ops that you sort of see focus in different countries? Or is it kind of just more of the same in the US, as the US?
Mary O’Carroll 47:54
So one of the observations I had, and this goes back to even when we were back in person, is I found the rest of the world is very interested in contracting. You know, another reason why I think, you know, CLM, and contracting is the next big thing I mentioned earlier, everyone around the world has this challenge. Whereas you don’t all have the same challenges when it comes to litigation, or regulatory or privacy, or m&a. Right. But you all have this business contracts challenge. And so that seems to be the thing that comes up over and over. You know, I used to go around the world and chat about the different areas that legal ops is focused on. And we talk about outside counsel management, we talk about e-discovery. And people would say, that’s all fine. Nice. Can we get back to talking about contracting?
Greg Lambert 48:42
Well, Mary O’Carroll from Ironclad, we want to thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. It’s been fun catching up.
Marlene Gebauer 48:48
Mary O’Carroll 48:49
It’s been great being here. Thank you so much.
Marlene Gebauer 48:55
I’m finally glad that we have gotten Mary O’Carroll, on the podcast. I know we’ve, we’ve wanted to do this for some time. And so I think the time timing was perfect. She had some really good insights about legal process management and legal Ops, and law firms and in and legal departments. So
Greg Lambert 49:19
you can always tell what’s hot in the industry because that’s, you know, if you look there’s a flashpoint Mary’s gonna be standing right there at Ground Zero.
Greg Lambert 49:27
Exactly right on that.
Greg Lambert 49:28
So, you know, track where she’s, where she’s going and you won’t go wrong,
Marlene Gebauer 49:33
Follow that trajectory, and you know, just stay with it. Absolutely. So
Greg Lambert 49:36
thanks again to Ironclad’s Mary O’Carroll, for taking the time to talk to us.
Marlene Gebauer 49:42
If you enjoyed the show, share it with a colleague. We’d love to hear from you. So reach out to us on social media. I can be found at @gebauerm on Twitter,
Greg Lambert 49:50
and I can be reached at @glambert on Twitter,
Marlene Gebauer 49:53
or you can leave us a voicemail on The Geek in Review hotline at 713-487-7270 As always, the music you hear is from Jerry David DeCicca. Thank you, Jerry.
Greg Lambert 50:04
Thanks Jerry. Alright Marlene, I will talk with you later.
Marlene Gebauer 50:07
Alright, have a good week.