I recently had the opportunity to interview Mary Shen O'Carroll, Head of Legal Operations at Google. Mary is a pioneer in her field - she was hired at Google in 2008 and has remained during a hyper-growth phase of the company. The issues Google faces from a legal perspective are complex and fascinating for anyone inside or outside the legal field.
I had the chance to ask Mary a wide-ranging set of questions, and her answers were extremely insightful.
What exactly is your role at Google?
Mary O'Carroll: In essence, I help run the legal department at Google like a business. I am analogous to a "COO" of the legal department - I make decisions around IT, internal processes, systems and tools, and other overlapping areas.
Prior to Google, I was at Orrick, where I served a very similar function.
How has Google changed since you joined?
MC: The most dramatic change is the growth across all aspects of the company. Since I've been here, the legal department has grown 5x, which has obviously had the most direct impact on me.
The great thing about Google is even though it's a Fortune 500 company, the entrepreneurial culture hasn't changed a bit. Every employee at the company focuses on solving problems differently, and in innovative ways that aren't necessarily pre-defined and prescribed.
Why is legal operations important?
MC: The field itself is growing like crazy. The way legal departments were run 10 years ago versus today has drastically changed. The General Counsel was originally viewed as someone who helps mitigate risk - today the GC is viewed as a trusted advisor. As a result, legal departments need to be run more like businesses - especially with all of the technological changes over the past several years.
What else are you working on?
MC: I recently started the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) with some terrific people in the field. We basically share best practices within the legal operations field so no one has to re-create the wheel. Since this is such a new and fast paced area, we are all learning from each other. We only incorporated in January and we already have an international chapter.
I'm really excited about the field in general and think it's going to become critical to any high-growth company.