COVID-19 Resources for Lawyers
Featured Guest
Mary Shen O’Carroll

Mary Shen O’Carroll is Director of Legal Operations, Technology and Strategy team at Google, where she is responsible for...

Your Host
Ralph Baxter

THE ORRICK YEARS Ralph served as Chairman & CEO of Orrick for nearly a quarter century, leading the firm...

Episode Notes

As a leading tech company, Google has, through its services and products, well earned its reputation as an innovator. But how does that extend beyond tech and into its legal department. Ralph Baxter sits down with Mary O’Carroll, Google’s director of Legal Operations, to discuss her work with Google, the factors leading to more corporations bringing on legal operations positions, and, through her presidency at CLOC, how Mary and her peers are working to develop and define the legal operations role throughout the industry.

Mary O’Carroll is the director of Legal Operations at Google and the president of the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (“CLOC”).

Special thanks to our sponsors, Headnote and Logikcull.


Law Technology Now

Mary O’Carroll: The Legal Operations Role and Its Growing Importance



Ralph Baxter: Welcome to Law Technology Now. I’m Ralph Baxter and this is my fifth episode as co-host of the show.

Today, we’re recording at the headquarters of the Legal Department at Google, and we’re here at Google because our guest today is the Director of Legal Operations at Google and also the President of CLOC, the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium, Mary O’Carroll.

It’s hard to imagine two roles that are more significant in changing the way legal services delivered than the two Mary leads. Before we get going, I want to thank our sponsors.

Thank you to Logikcull, instant discovery software for modern legal teams. Logikcull offers perfectly predictable pricing at just $250 per matter per month. Create your free account anytime at That’s

And thanks also to Headnote, helping law firms get paid 70% faster with their compliant e-payments and accounts receivable automation platform. Learn how to get paid quicker and more efficiently at

So I’ve known Mary O’Carroll for almost 20 years. She joined us at Orrick at an important moment when we were really trying to come to grips with the fundamental financial realities of law practice and I will ask Mary to talk about that some. She moved on from Orrick in 2008 to take on a position at Google that is now known as Legal Operations and Mary will, I hope, talk about that with us today.

She was an early and active leader at CLOC and in 2019, she was elected President of CLOC, a position she now serves and during her time so far running CLOC, she has continued the progress of CLOC to be an effective voice and catalyst for the modernization of legal services in the corporate world; both in corporate law departments, in outside law firms and everyone else in the legal ecosystem.

One of the reasons that I wanted to do this podcast with Mary is the significance of the work of CLOC and we’re going to talk about that in a lot of detail. So welcome to Law Technology Now, Mary.

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Thank you, Ralph, happy to be here.

Ralph Baxter: Terrific. So let’s start by talking a little bit about you before we get to some of these other important questions. So you grew up in San Francisco?

Mary Shen O’Carroll: That’s right.

Ralph Baxter: And then off to the University of California at Berkeley, the Haas Business School.

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Yes.

Ralph Baxter: So when you graduated from Berkeley, what were your career ambitions then?

Mary Shen O’Carroll: So I studied business with an emphasis in finance and I was fairly certain that I wanted to be an investment banker for life. I started my career in investment banking and quickly learned that that probably wasn’t the forever path for me. I enjoyed the analytics, I enjoyed having clients in different industries every time in solving business challenges, but I really wanted to get in there and understand how the businesses worked.

So after that, I transitioned into management consulting where I spent another few years where we worked with clients from all types of industries from biotech to pharma to consumer goods and retail. And then I also did a stint doing US-China consulting, were similarly helping businesses but more bridging the international gap between the China and US markets.

So I really enjoyed the work there and it was then that I got a call from Orrick where I started interviewing in Orrick and started working there with our COO doing profitability analysis.

Ralph Baxter: Which was a very positive day for Orrick and so and I want to talk about that in a moment, but during that time that you worked in these other business settings, not only did you do that, you traveled a fair amount, you worked in different cities New York —

Mary Shen O’Carroll: That’s right.

Ralph Baxter: Chicago and even a stint in China.

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Yes, yes.

Ralph Baxter: Right.

Mary Shen O’Carroll: So right after school I went to do investment banking in New York and that was always the dream and New York continues to be where my heart is. I went back to California after that because California does have a way of always drawing you back home and you’re right, I did a little bit of time in Chicago and then when I was doing US-China consulting, I spent quite a bit of time in Shanghai where really I was a month here in the Bay Area, then a month in Shanghai back and forth for the years that I was doing that.

Ralph Baxter: So, let’s talk a little bit about your time at Orrick. So first of all, how did this come up? Did a headhunter call you or did you know somebody at Orrick, how did we first connect? I don’t really remember.

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Yeah, just trying to remember that myself. So I was doing US-China Consulting at the time and it was frankly just too much travel and just wanted to settle down and be back in the Bay Area for good and looked around, applied to some jobs, I did not at the time really know much about law firms or lawyers or what they did.

I mean I had a lot of friends who were lawyers but certainly hadn’t heard of Orrick and those who aren’t in the legal industry don’t know a lot of the big-name law firms.

Ralph Baxter: Right.


Mary Shen O’Carroll: So it was kind of just a whole new world to me. So yes, I went in, I interviewed and took a job doing profitability analysis for the firm.

Ralph Baxter: Right. And you came at a time when Orrick like I think a lot of the leading law firms was really becoming serious about understanding the fundamentals of the business, not just the practice of law and the things that come naturally, but understanding beyond billable hours and so on to the real economics of the law practice.

So the mission, formal mission was working on profitability analysis. How did you understand what your objective was with that job?

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Yeah and I think it is an interesting and unique title. I mean you certainly don’t go to any sort of for-profit corporation and hear something like that because everyone’s job is to better the business and to grow revenue and do the responsible thing.

So it was an interesting role. I came in and my past roles had — I sort of touched on, we always had different clients in different industries, so while I didn’t have a background in legal per se, my job was usually to go into a new industry and learn it very quickly and then be able to provide guidance and consulting and advice to the leaders of that company.

So that’s what I was kind of used to doing. I came into Orrick, the role was profitability, but it was really about applying business principles to the running of a law firm and I learned quite a lot very quickly just opening my eyes to how the industry worked, how the business of law operates and was quite surprised because it was very different from the various industries that I had been experienced before.

Ralph Baxter: Right. In fact, you have said something just there at the beginning that I think is revealing for people who don’t know as much about law practice and law firms when you thought it was just interesting that there would even be a job focused on profitability.

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Right.

Ralph Baxter: I mean that’s so fundamental to any business. It’s not just revenue, its revenue in a way that leaves a profit at the end.

But in law, this is a concept that law firms continue to wrestle with, because it’s a profession there’s a lot of reasons why that is so.

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Yeah.

Ralph Baxter: So what did you do to help Orrick understand profitability better?

Mary Shen O’Carroll: So my job was looking at pricing, looking at staffing of different matters and really working with the partners to figure out what discounts could we provide and still be profitable, how should we staff this matter, if this is the budget that they’ve stuck with, what levers can we pull.

After the work was done, when the client came back and said, I don’t want to pay for XYZ, how big a write-off could we take before things were profitable. Looked at associates, their compensation, looked at the rates, we would look at rate increases each year, do the modeling, financial analysis on that, lateral partner analyses, office expansions, a variety.

I mean budgeting certainly, so just really helping to run the finances of the business.

Ralph Baxter: Right. I remember you well when you first started you were such a fresh sort of eyes wide open looking into this and learning as you went and we were at a stage when we too institutionally, we’re trying to learn and trying to understand this and get beyond the metrics that law firms had traditionally followed as their only metrics, which didn’t adequately deal with all of the subjects you just went through.

But we lost you in 2008, is that right? When did you — when did you go to Google?

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Yes in 2008, I got a call from Google and just to back up just slightly, so when you noted the role about the profitability analysis and manager, that was a very new sort of thing that I think, I always give Orrick credit for being very innovative and at the time we were one of the first firms that had someone focused on profitability and really the business side of law and probably you would call that legal operations today, right.

Ralph Baxter: Right.

Mary Shen O’Carroll: And it was a growing trend sort of in the years that, that I was at Orrick. So yes in 2008, I got a call from a headhunter, a recruiter at Google who said we understand that you helped manage the business of a law firm and we’d love for you to come and do that here.

That interesting story, I actually told them no thank you. I said I actually really love my job here, I think that this place is really fun to work with, the people are great and it’s innovative. And that was one of the things that I really thought was different about the culture that was at Orrick was that people were willing to take risk to try new things.

You’d launch the Global Operations Center in Wheeling, West Virginia where we were there and that was a really big deal at the time and a lot of firms have followed suit. But being at a place that was willing to take chances and do things that were different was really important to me.

They kept calling, so alas, I went in and interviewed and met the people here at Google and they did somehow win me over and I was no — I shouldn’t say I was surprised, it’s obviously a very, very innovative place as well. So the culture was just exactly what I was looking for and something different.

Ralph Baxter: Right. I think it’s a very high compliment to Orrick that you even considered when you were focused on innovation and doing things in a different way, staying at Orrick in a law firm as opposed to going to Google.


Going to a lot of places would be one thing, going to Google was another. Well, we were sorry to lose you, but I’m sure I know, it has been great for Google.

So what was the role as you understood it? Because this was an early day and what we now are familiar with is legal operations, what was the role as you understood it when you started?

Mary Shen O’Carroll: That’s right. So they did actually call it legal operations when I did start, but I didn’t know what that meant. I don’t think anyone really knew what that meant, and the job description was sort of vague and non-existent.

So when I came in and interviewed and met with folks they kind of said, well, whatever you do at the firm, kind of similar stuff here. I quickly learned that was not the case. But they had said to me, look, we’re growing really, really quickly, so in 2008, it was still a rocket ship. Google was growing at scale, so I think it was probably 200 people in the legal department at the time.

And I remember thinking to myself, Orrick was about 800 attorneys, what kind of company needs 200 of them captive to themselves that seemed crazy to me, but sure enough we continued to grow and they said, we’re growing so quickly, we don’t have any policies, we have no procedures, we don’t know what we’re doing, we just need someone to come in here and figure this out for us and help us scale really.

So that was the job, and I started out really by meeting with the General Counsel and his leads and asking them what keeps you up at night, what is the main pain point that you’re seeing as a legal department trying to scale and then tackling each problem one by one.

Ralph Baxter: This is so interesting to hear you tell this story, and of course, the lawyers knew what they were doing when it came to the law and the others whatever their roles where they knew what those were, but what was out of control if I may be to another way to put it was, the whole scale of the business and all of the different moving parts that needed better to coordinate.

Mary Shen O’Carroll: That’s right.

Ralph Baxter: Right?

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Yeah.

Ralph Baxter: In fact, I think you’ve — I’ve heard you in a public talk mentioned that there were sticky notes everywhere as a sort of proxy for a filing system?

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Yes, yes, one of my favorite stories is when I was going around and meeting with the heads of each team and trying to understand how they are currently doing their jobs, and I met with at the time our head of litigation and was asking her what system are you guys using to track your matters, and remember, I had come from Orrick that had already very sophisticated data analytics for that time, and so I assumed that it would be very similar coming to a legal department but I really learned it was quite different.

So she said to me, she looked at me like I was very confused and she said, I don’t know what you’re talking about, we don’t have systems and I said okay, that’s fine, you probably have a spreadsheet, what spreadsheet are you using to track your matters, and she said I don’t know what you’re asking me.

And I said okay, how do you know who’s working on what and which matter and which firm and which internal resources and she turns her laptop around shows me the top of it which is covered in Post-Its, and she says, well, I use Post-Its, and I thought oh my gosh, what have I gotten myself into. I mean they have no data, I’m coming from a place that was very data rich as all firms are.

You guys have all the information on how matters are staffed and priced and when you go into the client side at least at the time, we do nothing. The only thing we could do is turn to our firms and say what do you think.

Ralph Baxter: And were they helpful when you did that? Were firms forthcoming with the information when you wanted it?

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Well, yes, but this opens the whole can of worms.

Ralph Baxter: Yeah.

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Having come from that side, I sort of knew what was — how the business operated and what information they did have under their belt.

Ralph Baxter: Right. So if you could just give us an overview, you’ve been here now 12 years?

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Yes.

Ralph Baxter: 12 years, yeah.

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Yeah, just about yeah.

Ralph Baxter: So give us an overview if you could of what changed, the arc of change here at Google and how the legal operations works today.

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Sure. So just to go back, we had about 200 people at the time and our legal operations party of one, today 12 years later, the global legal department is about 1200 or 1300 people and the legal operations team itself is if fully staffed at 60.

So we have seen some hyper growth. It’s been very, very fast and we’ve expanded our scope quite tremendously from the days of choose-your-own-adventure, we don’t really know what your job description is to something that’s very well defined now and that is growing by the day.

So when I first started I had met with the General Counsel and asked him what is the biggest pain point for you right now, what can I help solve? And his one question to me was, are we getting good value out of the money we’re sending to outside counsel and the follow-up questions were and how much am I spending on discovery and how much am I spending with X firm and how long does it take to file a patent, how much is a patent cost and how much does litigation cost and I said I’ll get back to you.

And it literally took me years to get back to him with the answer to that first day question.


Ralph Baxter: And in fact, it takes the profession and industry of law to this very day to get better at answering that question, what is the value that the lawyers or the law department or the other legal service provider delivers?

How do you measure it based on what, it’s a hard question, but back then he was looking for a simpler answer, just what are we getting out of this?

Mary Shen O’Carroll: What are we even spending? I mean that was a hard question to answer.

Ralph Baxter: Right.

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Yeah.

Ralph Baxter: Right. How different the world was then from how it is now. So, we’re going to talk more broadly about legal operations in a moment. Anything else about your — just as we get into this, let me ask you this, what are some of the principle lessons that you’ve learned in your Google experience, we’re going to turn the CLOC in a moment about legal operations, about how to do it and how to make it successful?

Mary Shen O’Carroll: So, I think it’s about taking risks and trying new things. There isn’t a playbook for legal operations, even now as we’re trying to get to one and share it with the rest of the CLOC community, we are all still making it up as we go along and we are going to fail and we are going to stumble here and there, but the only way to make progress is to try new things. And that is something that I’ve really appreciated being at Google, that is part of the culture and we embrace that.

So when you have an idea, you’re free to go run with it and I’ve always told that to my team as I’ve hired new people, I use the term choose-your-own-adventure because there are so many problems to solve and it’s multiple times a day that someone will come to me and say, oh I started talking to someone, I started looking into this process and it’s a bit of a mess. There are endless problems to solve.

So just get out there and find a way to prioritize them and then go after them.

Ralph Baxter: That is great advice and it is advice that is so necessary in the context of legal, because it’s the opposite of what you are taught in law school. In the first year of law school, you’re taught to do things according to precedent and of course this is the 21st century and we need to approach it the way you’re just suggesting.

All right, let’s take a break for a moment and then we’re going to turn to CLOC.


Advertiser: Hey law firms, getting paid is fantastic, but dealing with accounts receivable is such a pain, what if there was a better way? Enter Headnote, an industry-leading compliant e-payments and AR automation system. Their unique blend of features cuts through the noise and helps you get paid 70% faster. Skip the paper checks, spreadsheets and awkward calls due to overdue clients. Get paid faster with less effort. Visit for more information.


Advertiser: 10 years ago, eDiscovery meant lawyers packed into a basement, fumbling with complex slow software wondering where their lives had gone wrong. Today much of that frustration remains, but fortunately there is Logikcull, not eDiscovery, but instant discovery. Logikcull’s intuitive cloud-based software makes document search and review easy, fast and affordable. It’s time to get out of the basement. Create a free account instantly any time of day at That’s


Ralph Baxter: And we are back and I’m here with Mary O’Carroll at the Google Legal Department Headquarters in Mountain View, California. We’ve talked with Mary about her background, her experience at Orrick and here at Google and now we’re going to turn to her other role, her other very important role besides her personal life and so on, which is President of CLOC.

And I’d like to start Mary by talking about the scale and reach of CLOC. Not every one large as it is important as it is, not everybody knows about CLOC. So if you could just start with that, how many members are there, where are they from and so on?

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Yes. So it’s not surprising. I mean CLOC is really only four years old and we forget that sometimes, but in those four years, we’ve grown tremendously. We have somewhere over 2,500 members around the globe and these are in — last count was 40 some countries and in every possible industry that you can think of and companies of all size.

So when legal operations when I first started with something, not a lot of people including myself had even heard of, now it’s really grown its prevalence and again in companies of all sizes and legal departments of all sizes, we’re even seeing it now in legal departments of one, it might be the first hire after the General Counsel.

Ralph Baxter: Which is so important and I think in the way legal service is going to be delivered. So it’s this is — the CLOC stands for Corporate Legal Operations Consortium, right, and it’s a consortium in a way because it started as kind of a book club as people joke about it, that’s just a informal group of people sharing ideas and then it became a formal organization four years ago.

Mary Shen O’Carroll: That’s right.

Ralph Baxter: Right. One of the things I found interesting is that the total spend on outside counsel by the CLOC members according to the CLOC website is over $50 billion.


Mary Shen O’Carroll: I think that sounds right.

Ralph Baxter: Yeah let’s dig a little deeper on CLOC and let’s start with this fundamental question, what is legal operations?

Mary Shen O’Carroll: So legal operations is a multidisciplinary function that helps the legal departments at corporations optimize for cost, quality and speed of the delivery of legal services. So there’s a lot of jargon in there. The way I look at it is it’s the function that helps optimize the way legal services are delivered for a corporation.

Ralph Baxter: Yeah. I couldn’t agree more after having watched CLOC from its beginning, I happened to be introduced by David Cambria who was back at Archer Daniels Midland at the time to the first symposium as it was called here in San Francisco and I was just dazzled by what I found but it seemed clear to me from the very beginning that optimize is the right word.

It’s not about one way or another, bigger smaller, it’s about optimizing, the right amount of resources, the right amount of cost, priced at the right level with at the right speed, at the right quality to benefit the corporate client.

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Right I mean the scope at the roll has just grown so much so a large portion of it is outside counsel management and pricing and financial management and vendor management and what I like to call as right sourcing, right, trying to figure out how do you match the value of the work or the type of work with the right resource; whether it is internal, external, outside counsel, alternative legal service provider. Could it be automated, do we have to do it at all, that is a big part of our job.

But there are other parts of our job like communications and professional development and training for our lawyers or technology implementations and systems and tools and knowledge management, e-discovery practices, the list just goes on and on and it’s starting to continue to grow. We’re doing a lot more at least in my team project in program management, compliance type work so yeah, it just continues to change.

Ralph Baxter: Right. All of the things that need to be done in order to optimize the way the corporation consumes legal service and we’re going to talk about some of the specifics in a moment. So the person who has the legal operations role in a corporation, does that person always have the title legal operations or are there a variety of titles for them?

Mary Shen O’Carroll: I think that there are a variety of titles of people who play in this very broad range of scope that we’ve just described. It is probably becoming more common that the head of that department is legal operations but there’s many titles that fall into these roles. People who are project managers, people who have IT background, so maybe they’re developers or programmers or data analysts. We also have folks in finance backgrounds who or accounting backgrounds who are very useful. We’ve got pricing specialists. We’ve got internal consultants and the list goes on.

Ralph Baxter: Right. I wanted to bring that out because people who are new to this won’t always find in their clients if they’re outside lawyers or there are people otherwise dealing with the law departments they won’t always find that title but they’ll find that role almost certainly in a company of any scale.

So one last question about this in general terms, how did this emerge, how did it come to be that there needed to be illegal operations, I think you’ve kind of told us the answer to this with the Google story but how did the facts develop that required a legal operations role?

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Yeah I think it was sort of a perfect storm of things happening at the time. Certainly there was a period of time where there was a lot more economic pressure on corporations and CFOs were having to tighten the belt and look at every part of the company including legal and it was sort of the first time that that legal was asked what are you doing to manage your budget and to manage value.

In addition to that, I always say the General Counsel used to just have one question to answer which was which law firm are we going to choose to work on this matter. And as times change and things changed, the General Counsels also turned around and found themselves hiring internally. So in-house departments started to grow and when that happens, suddenly you’ve got an internal budget to manage and you probably need some systems and you need some processes and you need to have some professional development in place for those people that you have in-house and you need a strategy for your department.

And all of a sudden, there’s all these roles that the General Counsel has to play in addition to being the best lawyer and advisor to the business that he or she is not necessarily interested in and/or trained to do or have time for. So that sort of sparked the role and some of this grew organically, that someone just started doing the budget for him or her or started implementing tools and it got to the point where I think also thanks to CLOC and us coming together to define the role, there was very much a need on the General Counsel’s side to have someone manage all these things.

Ralph Baxter: Yeah and that history is really important for people to understand so they can effectively deal with the world as it is today.


So for those of you who’d like to have a deeper briefing on what legal operations is all about, on the CLOC website, there’s a great depiction of the core competencies of legal operations and I think there are 12 of them and you’ll be able to see when you read through them all of the different kinds of tasks that a legal operations professional does and the progression as someone becomes a legal ops professional.

And I found it very interesting. It’s a valuable road map to what needs to be done to manage the legal services broadly and even in-house or otherwise.

So the mission of CLOC is set forth very clearly on the website and it’s consistent with what you’ve just said to help legal operations professionals and other core industry players and then you list them, the law firms and the law schools and all of the people who participate in law optimize legal service delivery. And one of the things that I think is noteworthy about CLOC is that the mission isn’t restricted just to the legal operations people or just the corporate clients but your mission embraces the whole ecosystem. Is that a fair statement?

Mary Shen O’Carroll: That’s right. Yeah.

Ralph Baxter: Why is that?

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Well we thought it was really important that if change was going to happen and we believe very firmly that change is necessary in this industry that it can’t happen in a bubble. And what good is it if we’re all just talking to ourselves in an echo chamber, right, just the legal departments talking amongst ourselves because we already know that we see eye to eye and if we’re not talking to the law firms and the law schools and the technology providers then real change isn’t going to happen or at least it’s not going to happen at the pace in which we would like to see it happen.

Ralph Baxter: And I think that that outlook and the openness that goes with it is one of the reasons CLOC has been as successful as it been, one of the reasons so many people want to be part of it. So to describe CLOC to the world and internally too, you’ve articulated five pillars that I find helpful to understand this mission; education, improving the delivery of legal service, number two, number three, industry change, number four, connecting the ecosystem, and number five, networking. So let’s talk a little bit about some of those. So education, what is the education role of CLOC?

Mary Shen O’Carroll: We have three institutes that we put on around the world and we very intentionally call those institutes because right now, we think that they’re probably the best place to go and learn about the function and the skill set that you need and kind of best practices and case studies from others who are practicing in the role.

It isn’t something that’s taught in schools yet. There isn’t a degree for legal operations and as you know, we kind of just talked about the different paths to get there, there isn’t an obvious path to get to a role in legal operations and because that wheel of core competencies is so broad, it’s unlikely that you’re going to find that one person who can do all those things. So it is really important for us to continue to get out there, educate people about what legal ops is and then help people do their job.

Ralph Baxter: Which is so valuable and you are so right, there is no curriculum for this in law school or otherwise but there you have all the —

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Although it is starting right.

Ralph Baxter: Well in some places, right around the edges but you’ve got all of these people who do it for a living who can teach each other and then you can bring these people in.

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Right.

Ralph Baxter: I want to talk a little bit later about the institute coming up in May, make sure everyone knows about it but moving to the second pillar, improve delivery of legal services. How would you characterize the ways in which CLOC is trying to improve legal service delivery?

Mary Shen O’Carroll: I think it’s such a big part of our core jobs. I mean we are trying to do this for our own companies and I sometimes joke although I think it’s quite real that one of the reasons I got involved in CLOC was because I can’t change the way things are done in the Google legal department until I changed the rest of the industry right, until it becomes commonplace, until it becomes everyone does it this way, it’s really hard to convince people to try something new.

And so I think it is our responsibility to get together and work across the ecosystem and try to optimize things. And we know that things aren’t necessarily broken for some parties in the ecosystem but they are broken for others.

Ralph Baxter: Right when you study it piece-by-piece, there’s almost always a number of ways you could make each piece better. So the companion to improving the delivery of legal service is industry change.

Mary Shen O’Carroll: That’s right.

Ralph Baxter: So let’s take those two together, what are some of the improvements to the changes that you think we need to accomplish?

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Well we’re already seeing a lot of the change, which is what I find so exciting and the pace of change, you and I have been in this world for a long time, you much longer but even having been in the legal ops field for nearly 20 years, we had a lot of the same conversations and we still are.

But I really feel that in the last five years or so, you’ve started to have different conversations and started to see things really changing. And so the rise of legal operations, we kind of talked about what drove that but I think what’s even more interesting is the impact at the rise of legal operations and really CLOC in bringing those people together as a unified voice is having on the industry.


So if you look at technology and where legal technology was pretty much non-existent 10 years ago when I started here, and fast forward to where it is today, the investments from VCs is just skyrocketing. It was over a billion dollars last year and we’re certainly on pace to do better than that this year.

And then the rise of the alternative legal service providers, they were something out there again, when I started this job at Google and now it’s commonplace, now it’s something everyone is using and should be exploring for different types of work either as a legal department or as a law firm. The big four are here and ready to play.

So there’s a lot of things that are happening that I think the industry is starting to take note of, not to mention the generational changes with Gen Z coming into the mix and what motivates and drives that generation and they’re coming into the workforce and are we ready to open our arms to them or is the model that we’re welcoming them to not very aligned to what they’re looking for.

So there’s a lot of stuff going on that I think is happening in front of us, right now and we’re really very much in the driver’s seat which makes it fun.

Ralph Baxter: This is really important to me that CLOC and the people in legal operations realize that you are in the driver’s seat and you can influence how things go because you end up being the client to the outside firms, the outside firms often set standards for the entire industry.

Okay, let’s turn now quickly, we are running a little short of time, to the final pillars. Connecting the ecosystem, you have really talked about that.

Mary Shen O’Carroll: That’s right, bringing everyone together at the same conversation, yes.

Ralph Baxter: And that means that when you have big meetings and so on, law firm leaders, partners are welcome to attend.

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Absolutely and encouraged, yes.

Ralph Baxter: Right and the legal tech and all the other people who want to be part of that.

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Yes, yes.

Ralph Baxter: — which is quite different. A lot of organizations are not as open to people who aren’t members as CLOC has been and then finally networking, what’s that about?

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Again, I think a lot of this is tied together. When we started CLOC, many of us didn’t know that there were others having the same struggles or working on the same problems and so bringing people together, the institutes, the forums that we have online, the regional groups that we have, a lot of that is just bringing people together to share their challenges, to share their learnings, their best practices and we again believe that change in progress can happen a lot faster when we’re all talking to each other.

Ralph Baxter: And these institutes really are phenomenal events. I was lucky enough because of David Cambria to go to the first one when it was — I was stunned by having 500 people there. I think you had 500 the first time?

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Yeah.

Ralph Baxter: And now how many do you expect next May in Las Vegas?

Mary Shen O’Carroll: Probably about 2,500.

Ralph Baxter: 2,500 people and I was there last year over 2,000 last year at the Bellagio and it’s a meeting that’s alive from the very first moment, its diverse, people from every part of the ecosystem and it’s pragmatic. The sessions are focused on very concrete ideas that need to be understood better and where people are working to try to come up with better solutions.

Well what are the dates for the 2020?

Mary Shen O’Carroll: May 12 through 14, Bellagio, Las Vegas.

Ralph Baxter: It really is quite a show. One last question for you before we close Mary, so you’ve now had all these years in law, wasn’t your plan, but it’s where you ended up focusing your career and you’re presiding over an organization dedicated in part to improving the way legal service is delivered and changing the industry.

So what one piece of advice or thought do you have about how we could make law work better for everybody?

Mary Shen O’Carroll: So I think the one thing that we still haven’t answered and this is a question we ask ourselves a lot and it goes back to the original question I was asked when I started here is, how do you value or how do you measure quality and how can you measure the value of those legal services?

And that is something that if and I think we’re starting to scratch the surface on that. If we can answer that, that’s a real game-changer. We’re already starting to disrupt the industry because there are folks who can compete measurably on cost and on speed of delivery.

And so that last pillar is quality and if we can prove that quality is as good or good enough that changes everything.

Ralph Baxter: Well Mary, thank you so much for taking the time with us today. Your story, I think is interesting to anyone who’s paying attention to the law and the way things work in the 21st century, but the CLOC part in particular I think is significant. I don’t know of any organization that has the potential to influence law for the better, more than CLOC.

And part of that is because you’ve got remarkable market power but it’s more than that. Part of it is that you are inclusive and you welcome the whole ecosystem together, part of it is that CLOC is not self-important, when you go to the CLOC meetings and you meet leaders yourself and the others and the other members of CLOC, you don’t have any sense that they regard themselves as more significant than anybody else, and it permits the conversation to be genuine and candid in a way that is necessary.


So I encourage all of our listeners if you haven’t engaged with CLOC in the past, follow what they’re doing, watch their website and see that the things they talk about, the white papers they develop, in fact there is a great white paper on what is legal operations that gives you a real roadmap to the whole process and helps you think better about how you in your part of the legal ecosystem can do the role you do even better.

So thank you for joining us today, Mary. Thank you everyone for listening.

If you liked what you’ve heard, please rate us on Google or Apple or Spotify. For today’s purpose, Google would be perhaps the best place to do it and until next time, this is Ralph Baxter for Law Technology Now.


Outro: If you would like more information about what you have heard today, please visit Subscribe via iTunes and RSS. Find us on Twitter and Facebook or download our free Legal Talk Network app in Google Play and iTunes.

The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders, and subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.


Brought to You by

Notify me when there’s a new episode!

Episode Details
Published: March 3, 2020
Podcast: Law Technology Now
Category: Legal Technology
Law Technology Now
Law Technology Now

Law Technology Now features key players, in the legal technology community, discussing the top trends and developments in the legal technology world.

Listen & Subscribe
Recent Episodes
Black Lawyers in Major American Law Firms: How to Make More Progress

Harvard’s David Wilkins and Host Ralph Baxter examine why law firms struggle to hire, retain, and promote black lawyers and how they can do...

Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for AI?

To achieve wider adoption of AI tools, there needs to be more industry testing and vetting, Prof. Maura Grossman tells host Dan Linna.

Model for Change: Utah’s Data-Driven Approach to Closing the Justice Gap

Ralph Baxter hosts key players in Utah’s move to reshape the delivery of legal services, revealing the aha moment that sparked the movement.

Pros & Cons: Data Privacy’s Role in Advancing Legal Tech

Host Dan Rodriguez and German lawyer Markus Hartung parse the differences between legal tech advances in the U.S., U.K., and European Union.

Hotshot: 21st Century Training for New Lawyers and Law Students

Ralph Baxter hosts Hotshot co-founder Ian Nelson and Harvard’s Sara Dana and Morrison’s Rick Jenney to discuss how Hotshot’s videos teach practical skills lawyers...

The Spanish Flu to Covid-19: How this Pandemic is Pushing Courts to Modernize

Michigan Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack details how courts are breaking with century old processes and outdated technology to build trust and serve the...