Episode 36

From Paralegals to Legal Ops Leaders: Tommie Tavares-Ferreira, Cedar, and Tom Stephenson,

Episode summary

Introduction: 0:00

  • Introducing two guests: Tommie Tavares-Ferreira, Senior Director, Head of Legal Operations at Cedar; and Tom Stephenson, VP of Community and Legal Operations at
  • Co-hosting the Dear Legal Ops podcast and leading panel discussion at CLOC 2024.

Transitioning from paralegal to legal ops: 2:30

  • Beginning your career as a legal receptionist and letting your ambition propel you to paralegal roles and beyond.
  • Using your love language and professional emotional intelligence to find your purpose. 
  • Shining a light on various pathways that lead to legal operations.

Coming into legal ops from a contract management background: 5:22

  • Developing your legal expertise through survival in a relentless position.
  • Identifying your operational skill set and being guided by a GC to the legal ops department.

Shifting your mindset from legal specialization to business strategy: 8:38

  • Balancing the need for developing new skills versus changing your mindset.
  • Bringing your project management skill sets to the table as you run legal like a business.
  • Prioritizing professional relationships and passing it on to future generations.

Debating whether legal ops is the right career path for everyone: 12:38

  • Deciding whether to sacrifice subject matter expertise into a generalist business role.
  • Advising people to do salary assessments as they consider what they want for their future.

Establishing trust with stakeholders across the broader business: 15:50

  • Making sure you don’t overload your colleagues with meetings on day one.
  • Leaning into your GC to find out who you need to talk to, hear from, and understand.
  • Clarifying to business leaders that you’re interested in helping them achieve their goals.

Managing a legal ops department: 19:10

  • Learning from coaches and colleagues that you admire.
  • Taking a collaborative approach to working with both your staff and the broader organization.
  • Helping your team members use their talents to meet their next career goals.

Maintaining a strong relationship with your general counsel: 23:59

  • Becoming comfortable with honesty and vulnerability when talking with your GC.
  • Planting the seeds of a good relationship during the interview process.
  • Asking yourself whether you will be able to work alongside your manager.
  • Making sure you work with a passionate leader and communicate your passions back to them.

Balancing your business expertise with your GC’s legal strategy: 31:01

  • Opening up to your GC in order to become a trusted business partner.
  • Finding the middle ground between strategy and minutiae.
  • Integrating legal ops into the business by focusing on the needs of the executive team.
  • Building bridges so CLOs and GCs can implement strategies.

The importance of placing the head of legal ops on the GC’s leadership team: 36:04

  • Recognizing that you may still be succeeding in your role even though there are no opportunities to join leadership.
  • Making a frictionless pathway to set a business-minded tone for your department.
  • Emphasizing the value of sitting at the table in order to advocate your needs and showcase your wins.

Considering career moves beyond legal ops: 38:48

  • Understanding your professional emotional intelligence and business acumen as keys to career success.
  • Allowing your talents and passions to guide you to the next transition in your career.

Transitioning from legal ops to executive roles: 43:15

  • Exploring legal pathways that don’t require a law degree.
  • Leaning into your interests to discover a new profession within legal.
  • Acknowledging the legal ops trailblazers who revolutionized the field and imaging where the role will go in the future.

Presenting at CLOC 2024: 49:11

  • Tom Stephenson will be moderating a panel titled Building Bridges: Personal Branding for Career Progression.
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Tyler Finn
Head of Community & Growth, SpotDraft
Tommie Tavares-Ferreira
Head of Legal Ops, Cedar
Tom Stephenson
VP of Community and Legal Ops,

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