Insights from women in the legal industry
As women and entrepreneurs, the founders of OnCall Discovery are delighted to celebrate the achievements of women everywhere on March 8th, International Women’s Day. Though we certainly have no shortage of insights and opinions about being female in a competitive professional world, we wanted to hear from – and learn from – other women in the legal and eDiscovery industries, and to share their voices with you.
Tracy McMahon, Lisa Waldin, and Jessica Nguyen are successful, accomplished business leaders in the Legal and eDiscovery industries, with diverse perspectives and wide-ranging professional experiences. We reached out to ask about strengths, challenges, goals and the road ahead for women. Their comments and responses have been edited for brevity and flow.
Tracy, let’s start with you: as a woman, what strengths do you bring to the table that set you apart from your male counterparts?
Certainly, I think women bring a unique perspective. We’re often balancing competing priorities – our careers and our households, the needs of our partners, children, and aging parents, and a million other things. It means we have to be the hardest working person in the room, but it makes us expert multi-taskers. More than that, it forces us to embrace the value of work-life balance, and it makes us flexible. We have to be able to adjust our focus quickly, so we’re great at managing crises.
Lisa, would you agree with that?
Absolutely. I’d add that, because women have to struggle simply to be at the table, we’re usually the strongest proponents of equity, while also being team players and supportive contributors.
[Tracy] That’s an important point – women have high emotional intelligence and tend to be empathetic by nature, so we recognize emotions in ourselves and often relate to those around us more readily, which helps us be supportive. Because we tend to be nurturers, we’re great communicators and listeners. We often have little time or patience for ego and tend to focus on building relationships, promoting teamwork, and leading by example.
[Jessica] I totally concur – at Lexion, I’m the only in-house attorney, which means I have a unique point of view on our customers, their workflows, and their pain points. What’s more important, though, is the way in which my role lets me leverage what I think of as my superpower: the ability to really see and understand people – who they are, how they’re feeling, what they’re thinking, and what they need (whether they know it or not).
[Lisa] I also think that as women, we have to be deliberate about bringing more than just empathy, communication skills, supportiveness, and so on. We need to bring rigorous due diligence and an exceptional work ethic. We have to demonstrate an unwavering commitment to our beliefs, to objectivity, and to a superior quality work product – combined with compassion and respect for dignity. We are all humans, regardless of gender, race, or anything else. At the end of the day, we all need to do our very best.
[Jessica] I couldn’t have said it better.
Lisa, what professional challenges or inequities should women focus on combating in 2021?
I think we need to stand up to “no.” Certainly we should focus on combating professional challenges of racial inequity, pay disparity, and the like, but at the root of each of those is being told no. No to job opportunities, no to career advancement, no to our ideas and recommendations. When we stop taking no for an answer, we take the first steps toward ending inequity in all its forms.
How about you, Tracy? What are your thoughts?
As bad as 2020 was for many of us, I genuinely hope that some of the lessons we learned around the importance of effective communication, flexibility, and innovation will carry forward into 2021 and beyond. For example, even though working from home has made us all a little stir crazy at times, the fact remains that when firms allow working from home or flexible working hours, it significantly expands the talent pool – and opportunities for women.
[Jessica] And on that note: I think we need to challenge the assumption that women are primarily responsible for taking care of business at work and at home. So many of us have partners who have shouldered an equal share, but so many more have been forced to juggle their work and their childrens’ participation in virtual classrooms. My hope is one day, working moms will no longer be asked, “When you’re working, who’s watching your kids?” or “How do you manage work and kids?” Because if you think about it, working dads are rarely asked these questions.
[Tracy] I think we need to continue to focus on representation. Not only do we need to model what successful women look like, we need to provide a path to success by attracting, developing, and retaining women at all levels, but especially those who are just starting out. It’s important that we create opportunities for them, provide them with challenging, fulfilling work, support them along the way, and celebrate their accomplishments.
That connects perfectly with my last question. How can we best pave the way for the next generation of professional women?
[Jessica] As Tracy said: provide opportunities. Period. Opportunities can come in many different forms. If you’re a woman in a position of authority, you can assign strategically important, highly visible projects to women, and make sure their successes are recognized. But no matter your position, you can do lots of things to create opportunity. You can make professional introductions for women, invest capital in women-led organizations, and refer potential business or clients to women – and ensure they get the origination credit. You can buy products from companies led by women, volunteer as a mentor…there are so many things you can do.
[Lisa] Yes! Yes to mentoring. Mentorship, organizations, and support groups that provide a safe place for women to learn, grow and develop their skills are so crucial. We can pave the way by advocating and providing that space for women to be seen and heard on a larger scale. It’s so empowering because it enriches not only women but the entire community.
Any final thoughts?
[Tracy] Never forget that our actions set an example for the next generation. They are watching us. They are learning how to lead and be led. How we show up every day shapes their experiences. It’s our responsibility to model leading with honesty, humility, grace, and integrity, and never apologize for having a seat at the table. We have the power to create change, and it’s critical that we use it wisely.
About the contributors
Tracy McMahon, Chief Operating Officer, LDM Global
Tracy McMahon is a technology leader with over 20 years of experience working to make legal teams more efficient. She has consulted corporations and service providers on the effective use of legal technology, including Contract Management, Litigation Support, eDiscovery, and Document Review solutions. She specializes in building alliances between teams with a focus on creating repeatable and efficient processes.
As COO Tracy ensures LDM’s global team deploys their industry-leading technologies to accelerate the time to insight, reduce document count and reduce costs for clients. Her work allows LDM Global to further develop and drive their AI-led approach to litigation, investigation and insolvency support.
Jessica Nguyen, Chief Legal Officer, Lexion
With a long track record as General Counsel for companies like Microsoft, Hibu, and PayScale, Jessica currently serves as Chief Legal Officer at Lexion, the publisher of a simple and intelligent contract management, data extraction, and analysis platform.
A graduate of the University of Washington School of Law, Jessica was named one of the Business Journals’ Top 100 Legal Influencers in 2019. She was also recognized on the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association’s Best Under 40 list, and was named Law.com and Corporate Counsel Magazine’s “Startup GC of the Year” in 2020.
Lisa Waldin, Directory of eDiscovery, Ryley Carlock & Applewhite
With 24 years of experience in the eDiscovery industry, Lisa Waldin is the Director of eDiscovery with Ryley Carlock & Applewhite’s eDiscovery and Managed Review practice in Phoenix; in that role, she consults with clients, coordinates legal projects, and oversees all aspects of review projects.
As an active member of Women in eDiscovery since 2016, Lisa served as WiE’s Phoenix Chapter Director until October 2020 and currently serves on the WiE Leadership team as Director of New Chapters – North America. Lisa was a 2019 Finalist for Relativity Fest’s Stellar Women in eDiscovery.