Riding Tech Booms and Busts as a Lawyer: Perspectives from David Lancelot

Episode summary

Working in tech start-ups from the early days: 00:00

  • Insights from a leader in tech law.
  • The importance of supporting revenue generation.
  • Learning from both successful and unsuccessful ventures about how to and how not to run businesses.

Being the first legal hire at QVC: 4:30

  • Establishing an in-house legal function.
  • Embracing a business-oriented mindset, navigating the challenges of live TV production, and prioritizing compliance.
  • The importance of leadership training for relatively junior people.
  • Fostering a humble and supportive company culture.

Surviving the tech market crash and navigating lay-offs: 09:45

  • Navigating the aftermath of the dot-com crash.
  • Surviving lay-offs and getting back on your feet.

Playing in global legal markets and building and scaling legal operations: 13:56

  • David’s role at eBay Classifieds Group, after working on the Obama campaign, spending a year at Amazon, and going back to law school to understand US law.
  • The challenges of limited legal support within a global business, especially in local markets, and the need to prove Legal’s value in order to build a legal team.

Transforming legal operations to build scalable and strategic legal functions: 20:36

  • The traditional approach of "throwing lawyers at the problem."
  • The importance of scaling the legal function like a business unit, focusing on centralized contract management, and leveraging legal operations to handle high contract volume.
  • Freeing up lawyers' time from low-value, repeatable tasks to focus on becoming strategic business partners and eventually business co-leaders.
  • The importance of sustainable growth and focusing on revenue rather than just increasing headcount.

Building trust with CFOs and earning resources for legal: 24:53

  • Managing resources effectively and building a sustainable model as a function.
  • The role of legal as business co-leaders, managing the legal function like a business unit.
  • Establishing trust with the CFO through quantitative metrics and demonstrating the impact on the business.
  • Streamlining processes for repeatable tasks like NDAs and MSAs, allowing lawyers to focus on more strategic matters.

Optimizing processes & bringing in legal ops: 27:07

  • Legal operations, the engine room of a high-performing legal team.
  • Optimizing processes and utilizing resources effectively to allow lawyers to focus on strategic matters and become business co-leaders.
  • Accelerating the business and improving collaboration between legal and other functions.

Driving change within your team & the business: 31:01

  • Building trust with business stakeholders and legal leaders is crucial for implementing change in legal operations.
  • Changes in processes and operations should be positioned as a way to improve the lives of lawyers and enable them to become strategic business co-leaders.
  • Creating a mindset open to modern and effective ways of working.
  • Reaching a tipping point where a significant portion of work is off the lawyers' plates.

Using data and metrics to build trust and effective resource management in legal operations: 37:48

  • Data and metrics are essential to communicate and build trust internally in legal operations.
  • Strategy teams can help transform raw data into visually appealing presentations.
  • Tracking ‘legal spending over time versus revenue’ to showcase the scalability of the legal function and effective resource management.
  • As value is proven, increased funding and support can be obtained.

The evolving role of legal operations in shaping the future of the legal function: 42:24

  • Legal Ops is still in its early development stage.
  • It will become an integral part of a business, connecting various departments such as sales, marketing, and finance.
  • Legal operations should be prioritized and considered an essential hire.
  • Ops is the future of the legal function, with its emphasis on project management, effectiveness, efficiency, process management, policies, and technology.
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Tyler Finn
Head of Community and Growth, SpotDraft
David Lancelot
ex-VP Global Head of Legal, eBay Classifieds Group

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