Laurie Brasner, General Counsel of Seal Software | CLOC 2018 Legal Ops Win

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By Oliver Duchesne
| CLOC Interview

As part of our interview series for CLOC 2018, Priori recently chatted with Laurie Brasner, General Counsel of Seal Software, about her journey from BigLaw to in-house and how Seal is helping companies and firms ace their legal ops.

What does Seal Software do?

Seal offers a contract-based discovery and analytics platform, which means we provide software that helps our customers find their contracts and what's in them. It’s a pretty straightforward idea, but when you start to think about how and why that's important and how it can be used, it becomes interesting and complicated all at the same time.

How is Seal Software improving legal operations?

If you look at CLOC and the 12 core competencies they have identified regarding what any legal department needs to have in order to succeed, those are what our technology helps with. This includes competencies like technology, process support, knowledge management, data analytics and vendor management. It's all about efficiency and the ability to not only have the information at your fingertips when you need it, but the confidence that it creates. With a tool like Seal, our customers know that they have all their agreements and can find whatever they need within them at any time. Today I need to know X, but tomorrow I may need to know Y. The idea of marrying technology with the traditional platforms of companies -- which include their documents -- the ability to find what's in them and find it in a way that you've never been able to do it before is what we're all about.

On a day-to-day basis, what legal issues as the GC of Seal are you dealing with?

Being the GC of a relatively small but fast growing company, you've got to have your arms around everything. This not only includes the contracts that you have with your customers and vendors, but includes HR related issues and documentation, regulatory related issues, changing laws such as GDPR and privacy. If you're a multinational company, you've got to think long and hard about where your data is, how it's used, how you protect it, how you protect the individual behind it and where you're getting it from. But then you also have litigation issues to think about, messaging, patents, trademarks, fundraising and debt and other related considerations. When you think about what all that adds up to, there's no way to keep on top of it without some sort of help. This help can either be pure manpower or a combination of manpower and technology and that's the approach we take.

What is your professional background?

When I came out of law school, I was a finance based lawyer with some of the bigger firms on Wall Street, such as Cadwalader and Shearman & Sterling. I did mortgage- backed securitizations, asset-backed securitizations, asset-based lending and acquisitions. Then I was in-house with Societe Generale and eventually found myself down in South Florida where I went in-house with DirecTV Latin America, which was my first foray into the world of technology. I took a little time off, came back into the market as a legal consultant at a large consulting firm. There I was using Seal and advocating for the product and thought it was the coolest thing I'd ever seen. I gave them a call and said "Hey, you looking to hire anybody that does anything that I do?" And here I am.

How do you find the difference between working in a firm versus working in-house?

There are a lot of people who are very quick to say firms are horrible, but I'm really thankful to the firms that I worked for because they prepared me in a way I couldn’t have been otherwise. When I graduated from law school 25 years ago you really did need to jump into the firms to have the opportunities to go in-house. The training that I received -- in terms of how to draft and the nuances of how to negotiate -- is something I wouldn't trade for anything. I'm grateful and thankful for the law firm experience, but long-term it was not for me. I really love the idea of being in-house and knowing who my one client is all the time. Having been at very large institutions, such as Societe Generale and DirecTV Latin America, it's refreshing to come to a smaller one and to be able to shape it. I love that. I wouldn't trade it.

From your perspective what has most surprised you about the emergence of legal operations as a field?

That nobody was talking about it sooner. It's one of those ideas that once it was out there led me to think: "Why weren't we always doing it this way?"  There's a big piece of legal operations that relates to technology but there's so much more of it that doesn't. Legal departments are about so much more than just reviewing contracts. It’s also about understanding your information governance, your strategic planning, your spend and a million other things. The fact that nobody did that sooner is kind of shocking to me.

How do you define legal operations?

I think of legal operations as the function within an organization that marries all the different fields that legal can touch and makes sure that they're working most efficiently together. It's the idea of putting process on top of the legal function and making it work more efficiently. It's looking at the whole process behind it and the efficiencies behind it and making sure that somebody's thinking about those macro issues. So really the process behind the legal function.

What has Seal Software aced in the last 12 months?

I think we've just really solidified our role as the leader in the market that we're in. Year over year we have tremendous growth. Our client base is amazing. Seal is enterprise based, so we're in there with some of the largest institutions in the world. I love sitting down and talking to our customers. They vary from the oldest Wall Street institutions to the newest of the technology companies and sitting down with them and blowing their minds with what we can do is one the best parts of my week. We've been doing it for eight years and we continue to grow and develop from a technology base in a way that I think very few others have done. So, it's exciting to see where we've been but more exciting to see where we're going.

Is there anything that you've implemented in your legal department in the past couple of years that you think is particularly exceptional or noteworthy?

I, you won’t be surprised to hear, use Seal which is incredibly helpful for a small department like ours. As we start to go through things like our internal GDPR compliance, one of the first things your counsel will say to you is: "Do you have access to this information and that information?" And I can pull it up right then and there. That makes my life easier every single day. On top of this, going to events like CLOC where you can get out there and see what other tools there are for us to use and what other processes are out there for us to implement lets us grow the right way from the start. So, I've got to say Seal but it is more than that, it's the alliances that we have and that we've made with entities like CLOC and its members.

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