Google (7): legal team

Mary O’Carroll, Head of Legal Operations, is making it easier to get things done

Google’s legal team is just like Google: innovative, collaborative, and working to change the world. Head of Legal Ops, Mary O’Carroll, explains what she’s most proud of and shares some advice for legal job seekers looking to set industry standards.

When you arrived at Google in 2008 as the head of legal operations, this was a newly created position. Why was there a need for the position and what were some of the initial challenges you faced?
Like the rest of Google, the legal department was in a period of hypergrowth and needed someone to come in and help put some structure and processes in place to ensure that we could continue to grow and operate at scale. This role was created to ensure that someone was focused on employing innovative strategies and leveraging technology in new ways. The biggest initial challenges were 1) establishing processes while balancing the need to preserve our culture and 2) keeping up with the growth. As we grow as a company, the volume of work and issues that arise also grows. That’s where my team comes in. We create tools to help us stay organized, track and collaborate on projects, improve our efficiency and help us scale.

What project has your team worked on that you are most proud of and why?
Legal Operations continues to be a fairly nascent though rapidly emerging field, so there are no well established practices or playbooks to turn to. I’m proud of the fact that we’ve been paving the way for other legal departments as we go. As we grow, we find ourselves entering new product and practice areas, as well as new geographies. It’s my team’s job to make sure we stay current on how our teams work and what they need to be successful. On top of that, the legal landscape is constantly evolving, with new market entrants in technology and new ways that law firms and other providers are delivering legal services.

What are the benefits of working at Google as a legal professional?
I’m proud to be a part of Google and its legal department. Every day, I get to be involved in the issues of the day on behalf of a company that’s doing great things while working alongside tremendously bright people in a dynamic environment. You really can’t ask for more than that.

What are you most excited about for the future?
My team continues to grow in size and scope. With the talent that we have and the guarantee that each day brings new challenges and new opportunities here, I look forward to seeing how we continue to evolve and influence the future of the industry.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I’m a born and raised San Franciscan and a true, fast paced city loving girl, but somehow woke up to find myself living in the suburbs as a mother of 3 girls. I spend most of my non-working time with my family. I love competitive-anything, watching reality TV, and drinking pinot noir.

What advice do you have for job seekers looking for opportunities in Google’s legal department?
People who enjoy working here find the challenges of the job are part of its appeal. Our world is complex and diverse and it takes someone who thrives on constant change and challenge.

For legal operations specifically, there are few roles that are as broad as ours. Our role is to be the executor and a change agent. We get to see every aspect and function of the department, and engage with an extremely diverse range of teams and stakeholders. Legal Operations leaders must possess a mastery of influence to help translate their vision and ideas into action, and it requires a deep understanding of the culture of the legal department to do that successfully.

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