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Ironclad Webinar Recap: The Outsized Impact of Chief Legal Officers Featuring GoDaddy's Michele Lau

Ironclad Webinar Recap: The Outsized Impact of Chief Legal Officers Featuring GoDaddy's Michele Lau

Published 12-28-22

Submitted by GoDaddy

Michele Lau, Carolyn Herzog and Mary O’Carroll

Chief Legal Officers (CLOs) are changing the roles of legal departments and the career paths of legal professionals at organizations around the world. GoDaddy Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary, Michele Lau, recently joined a webinar to examine the CLO’s role as a C-Suite leader and talk about preparing for a new year in an uncertain economy.

Moderated by Mary O’Carroll, Chief Community Officer at San Francisco-based Ironclad, How CLOs are making an outsized impact in 2022, also featured Carolyn Herzog, CLO at Silicon Valley software maker Elastic. Together, the three C-Suite veterans dove into questions grouped around three major themes: Career growth, how legal can provide value to the business, and planning for 2023.

A career — even for legal professionals — isn't a straight line

The career growth discussion kicked off with each panelist sharing a bit about their own journeys.

Lau spoke about growing up in San Francisco around an extended family that believed strongly in travel as a form of education. “The value of trying new things and exploring” was instilled in Lau as a child and has shaped her life and career since.

A love of travel also shaped Herzog’s life, taking her from her childhood home of Madison, Wis. to study in France and then move to New York City. While working as a waitress in NYC, a letter from Carolyn’s grandmother – a fashion designer who survived the Holocaust – launched Herzog onto a new path. “You have been given every advantage in life,” her grandmother wrote. “Get off your butt and go do something.” And Carolyn did. “I think the theme is that a career isn't a straight line,” she said.

The panelist’s stories of curiosity, inspiration, and exploration lent rich context to the ensuing 45-minute conversation. Here are some highlights from their discussion of the expanding role of legal ops professionals as advisors, strategists and C-suite level business leaders.

The path to CLO is paved with curiosity and leadership skills

A recurrent theme throughout the webinar was the expansion of in-house legal leadership from General Counsel (GC) to CLO. While the GC has traditionally led a company’s legal team and managed legal compliance and corporate governance, the newer CLO role expands to include more general business concerns, as well. “The functions that many CLOs oversee, me included, are really broad and varied, and that's super challenging and very exciting at the same time,” Lau said. She pointed to curiosity and agility as two of the key skills that one needs to be a CLO, adding, “the way that we contribute to the conversation in the C-Suite is more than a legal conversation.”

Leadership skills also topped the list of qualifications for a strong CLO. People skills, like the ability to probe and ask questions in a disarming, nonjudgmental way was mentioned alongside authenticity and transparency during challenging times. “That was true particularly during Covid for many of us in a largely remote world,” Herzog said. “But now, with the volatile macroeconomic environment, it's even more important for us to keep people engaged, and rally them around the highest priorities.”

To that end, both Herzog and Lau noted the importance of community building to success as a Chief Legal Officer. No one person is going to be an expert in everything, they agreed, and surrounding oneself with quality people is vital.

The value of Legal Ops as a strategic partner

The oft-discussed topic of how to demonstrate a legal department’s value inside of their own company was raised in several attendee questions. Herzog advised starting with a broader view of the business beyond the legal purview. “Determining value has to start with, ‘What are the objectives of the company? What are you trying to achieve?’ We have to connect our resources in the most effective, efficient way,” she said.

Lau agreed, again underscoring the strategic importance of the modern CLO. “There was a time when lawyers in particular would be heads down, focused on mitigating risk,” she added. “Now it really is about, ‘How do you help be the strategic connector across the enterprise? How do you think about the external landscape and be a strategic business partner?’ That all starts with understanding the priorities of the company.”

Tightening budgets? Technology can help

When it came time to talk about 2023, the panelists agreed that while the economy remains uncertain, investing in technology might be the smartest way to weather tighter budgets and resource constraints.

As Lau explained, an economic downturn can be the right time to innovate with tech. “A lot of times the knee jerk reaction is, ‘Okay, we must cut costs. We were going to make these technology investments, so we should just cut those now,’” she said.

The problem comes when an organization continues to rely on manual processes that aren’t sustainable without more headcount — headcount that is not available during a downturn. Instead, teams must figure out how to work smarter, and that’s where the right technology – whether that’s a CLM like Ironclad, e-discovery software, or even spend management tools – can help.

Herzog echoed the takeaway of, “Work smarter, not harder in a time like this.”

Watch the full webinar at  Thanks to Mary O’Carroll for moderating the discussion, and to Carolyn Herzog and GoDaddy’s own Michele Lau for their insights into the role of Chief Legal Officer.

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