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Google head addresses reluctance to change
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Google head addresses reluctance to change

Mary O'Carroll

Google’s head of legal operations, technology and strategy has spoken out about the legal profession’s “stubbornly resistant” nature towards disruption, offering an insight into why such reluctance occurs, and its effects in-house.

Speaking at last week’s Corporate Counsel Summit, Mary O’Carroll zoned in on the topic of disruption, noting that every profession and industry imaginable has been transformed in the past 150 years, except for law.

In describing the challenges to the industry’s disruption, Ms O’Carroll gave five reasons as to why this reverse phenomenon has occurred, noting first that law firm profitability and business models are not motivated by efficiency.

She then highlighted that regulations, including partnership structures and the consensus market have also posed a challenge to change, until now.

People-oriented processes, threats to the profession, and the “lawyer brain” are the three other factors which have ensured the steadfastness of many of the customs and traditions of the profession, according to Ms O’Carroll

But “disruption is here”, she stated, citing a Harvard Law School comment that “the warning bells have been ringing for at least two decades: The legal profession as we’ve known it is doomed, and lawyers must adapt – or face extinction”.

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Referring to a Forbes Magazine statement that “corporate legal departments are driving change”, the head of legal operations listed a number of factors driving current disruption, including economic pressures, changing roles of the general counsel, the growth of the in-house sector, and an introduction of legal operations and increased implementation of technology.

Reflecting also on the rise of legal operations such as her own, Ms O’Carroll quoted Law 360, which has previously said “change is coming to the law, and it will be propelled by the legal operations professional who crave innovation rather than fear it”.

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