Maturing Legal Tech Market Looks to Legal Ops Pros for Innovation Edge

Mary O’Carroll speaks during the closing speech at the 2020 CLOC conference. Photo: Caroline Speizio / ALM.

Last month, Mary O’Carroll resigned From her position as Director of Operations, Technology and Strategy for the legal department of Google to the Chief Community Officer of the CLM software provider Ironclad (Contract Lifecycle Management).

O’Carroll’s move was a significant acquisition for the legal tech market, having served in Google’s legal team for 13 years and previously serving as president of the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC). However, O’Carroll’s move to Ironclad also reflects the broader trend as legal tech and service providers are maturing and reaching out to legal veterans for more insight into their business and development processes.

In the past six months alone, big names in the legal department have left corporate legal departments to share their in-house experience with legal technology and service providers. Liberty Mutual Vice President and Senior Corporate Counsel Bob TaylorFor example, he joined Deloitte Legal Business Services in mid-March. That same month, Taylor’s internal director of Liberty Mutual, chief of legal innovation, Jeff Marple, left the insurance company to work for the law firm Keesal Propulsion Labs (KP Labs) spin-off.

Shortly afterwards, in early April, e-discovery tech and service provider compliance snapped The head of document intelligence practice at JDX Consulting and former managing director of BNY Mellon, Charles Post.

Although numerous, the recruitment is not surprising, O’Carroll said in a recent interview. “If you are targeting the Legal Ops market and this is your core audience and user base, it is likely wise to have someone who understands the user journey and the desires of those in that role,” noted O’Carroll.

The ability to attract and pay corporate legal staff is of course being strengthened by the growing external investment and market share of Legal Tech. Still, as funding and customers grow, software companies can still become complacent, said Eric Elfman, CEO and co-founder of Onit Inc.’s corporate legal management automation platform.

“We’re 11 years old – which is a kid by General Motors standards – which means an average software company [at Onit’s age] is starting to get closer to mediocrity, ”said Elfman. “They think about profitability, lose their innovative edge and don’t experiment.”

Keeping an eye on customers’ needs and perspectives was the main reason Onit hired the former Chief Operations Officer and Chief of Staff of TIAA Brad Rogers As vice president of strategy and growth, Elfman added. “With Brad, we’re trying to bring the customer’s voice to Onit to make sure the way our customers think and what they value and care about is in our ears every day,” he said.

Of course, sales and marketing teams are essential to building customer insights in the early stages of a legal tech company. However, some legal tech companies have now set their goals higher by leveraging the direct insights of seasoned legal professionals, said Rudy DeFelice, co-founder of KP Labs.

“Sales and marketing bring scalability and insights, and that’s useful, but I think it’s the most basic [asset] is… reviewing ideas, providing insights, and helping you come up with ideas that may not necessarily lead to more sales tomorrow, but in the long run you’ll be better allies with customers, ”said DeFelice.

While the influx of legal ops hires from legal tech vendors is fueled by growth ambitions, Ironclad’s O’Carroll noted that the timing of these announcements was partly influenced by the legal ops’ own maturity.

“Legal Ops is very new,” she noted. “To find someone who is a veteran, we probably are [now] to reach this year to have that experience under our belt and have seen many things. “

O’Carroll added that the executive-level legal department is highlighting additional career opportunities for the emerging field.

“The impact on the industry in general is more movement towards a variety of career paths or more options for people in law,” she said. “Legal has always been a difficult place to move from because there aren’t many skills or backgrounds that can be easily relocated to different parts of the company.”

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