Fireside Chat with Olga Mack
August 1, 2022
**Legal Communities Without Borders**
These words effervesced in my mind when I first heard back from the following esteemed guest. She is the VP at LexisNexis and CEO of Parley Pro, an award-winning general counsel, public speaker (including TEDx Talks), adjunct professor, author, entrepreneur, podcaster and many more. She also co-founded organizations dedicated to help advancing women in law. Last but not least, she is a mom of two teenage daughters.
Frankly, I did not expect her to reply (and so promptly) just because of her stature and her many impressive roles which I inferred her schedule must be super packed at all times. But I felt compelled to reach out because I was so moved by her insightful posts on LinkedIn about career and family that I thought our readers would really enjoy her sharing.
You must be wondering who this legal superhero / mom is, I am deeply humbled to introduce you to our next Fireside Chat guest: Olga Mack!!
Through Olga’s genuine sharing, I had a glimpse of her superpowers and really appreciated the depth of her thought-provoking answers that were packed with actionable tips. Olga has also shown tremendous support for Equilawbrium, and is very friendly and down-to-earth which led me to believe the legal communities have no borders and just like Olga said below that “we are all in this together”.
Without further ado, let’s get started…
P.S. I’d highly recommend you to check out Olga’s podcasts (i.e. Notes to My (Legal) Self) if you are interested to learn more about the intersection of law and fun, or otherwise would like to receive a dose of her upbeat energy and infectious smile!
Part 1 - Introduction
Hi, my name is... Olga Mack.
Year of call to the Bar: 2006.
Type of practice, your role, and where: Building the future of law.
How many children do you have? 2 daughters, ages 11 and 13.
What do you do for self-care or stress relief? I enjoy getting outdoors and biking, swimming, and hiking with my daughters, partner, and mother.
Part 2 - The first “Dual 10” Challenge: within the first 10 years post-call
Equilawbrium: Did you have a master plan for your career path? What was the driving force behind your career decisions? What are the important things to consider as you are figuring out your career path?
Olga: Every time I map out plans, life intervenes and leads me to new roads. Initially, I knew what I wanted to do as a lawyer. I had a clear sense of direction and purpose.
The first few years were about gaining foundational legal experience. I, like many lawyers, lacked imagination. I didn’t think that focusing on the future of law would be anything more than a fun hobby for me as I pursued my plan to become a tech industry GC.
Your career can evolve organically. As time went on, I discovered more about myself as a person and my passion for exploring the intersection of law and technology. I learned about SaaS, data analytics, AI, blockchain, crypto, Web3, and the metaverse long before they were cool.
I also learned I can best fulfill my role by considering the needs of my clients and our communities, then looking beyond obvious and outdated solutions to find innovative ways to make the law more accessible and efficient.
It became increasingly urgent to build the future of law into a system that works for everyone. As a builder and a doer, I knew I needed to not just talk about the future—I had to start actively building it.
When you find an area of law you feel passionate about, learn everything you can about it. Then take action to put yourself on its leading edge.
Equilawbrium: Please list one soft skill that contributed to where are you now and suggestions on how to cultivate it.
Olga: I have always believed that the future of law is bright and will collectively benefit us all. This makes me an optimist, which helps me build relationships with people of different professions and backgrounds.
Building long-term relationships contributed greatly to my success as a lawyer. Be open to collaborations with professionals outside the legal industry as well. It helps you become a more well-rounded lawyer and provides you with opportunities to learn from and contribute to the larger legal community. It drives you to explore new ways to serve clients and build a better legal system for everyone.
Equilawbrium: Please list one hard skill that contributed to where are you now and suggestions on how to cultivate it.
Olga: I have led legal departments through some of the most challenging and risky events in business, such as M&As, IPOs, fundraising, and regulatory investigations in the US and abroad.
But then, I am a risk-preferring lawyer. In the face of ambiguity, I find the narrow path to achievement and lead my team to it.
Doing this multiple times has strengthened my leadership skills. Leadership takes practice. You can develop your skills over time by learning from peers, more experienced colleagues, and other professionals, and by taking on as much new information as possible.
The more you learn, the better you’ll be at spotting risks and opportunities. This also helps cultivate your intuition. I like to think of it as using your geeky knowledge as a competitive advantage.
Part 3 - The second “Dual 10” Challenge: have kids in their first 10 formative years
Equilawbrium: How did you juggle work/life responsibilities? Is it possible to have it all?
Olga: I’ve learned that it’s okay to lean on others in certain situations, which has helped me balance my life. My partner, also a full-time legal executive at a public company, and I are a team that shares responsibilities evenly. My parents helped us with childcare from the start. My mother is still actively helping.
That openness also creates an environment where we all discover more about the world together. My girls learn from the many adults in their lives. Yet, they see the world in a different light than we do, and we learn from them, too. For example, even at 11 and 13, they are more enlightened and mature about gender roles and identity issues. They seem to intuitively understand issues that many of my peers and I have struggled to wrap our minds around for decades.
Equilawbrium: Having walked the walk, what is the one parenting tip or trick that you wish you’d known?
Olga: Understand that what it means to be a good parent evolves as children grow. The baby/toddler stage was not my favorite time, but I’m excited about the fascinating teenagers and young adults my girls are becoming. My partner is the other way around. We are both still good parents. And our strengths complement each other.
Also, attempting to do everything for everyone leads to burnout and guilt. You must take care of your needs before you can help anyone else. Only then can you focus on the needs of your next priority, your family. Then, see what career opportunities fit into your reality. Parents of young children need a workplace that is flexible and accommodates their needs to be present in their children’s lives. That is how happy parents stay happy as professionals, too.
Equilawbrium: What did you miss most about your kids at that young age?
Olga: I appreciate who my girls are today. I am grateful for the precious moments we’ve shared, but I don’t live in the past. I don’t get lost in regrets or feel anxious about missed opportunities. And I don’t worry about the future.
I stay firmly focused on the present: pushing my girls to be the best they can be, and enjoying the young adults they are becoming. Today, I like that my daughters have their own ideas and think they are smarter than me (and they might be!). I love that they both like to backpack and see the world together. (We just got back from a great trip to Italy, and we'll soon be going to the UK, Belgium, and France.) I love seeing how they find ways to be happy and make a difference while still being themselves.
Part 4 - Achieving Equilawbrium: how to survive & rise from the “Dual 10” Challenges
"Remember that we are all only human. When your personal life picks up speed, you'll need to make adjustments in your professional life, too. It is up to you to decide to what extent." – Olga Mack
Equilawbrium: What was your biggest challenge going through the Dual 10 phase? Any advice for our readers who are living and breathing this phase and trying to survive and excel?
Olga: Remember that we are all only human. When your personal life picks up speed, you'll need to make adjustments in your professional life, too. It is up to you to decide to what extent. I worked for a public company when both of my children were in diapers because I wanted a consistent schedule with minimal travel. It was too difficult to combine traveling with breastfeeding.
Remember, too, that we are all much more alike than different. Once during a business trip, a TSA dog discovered my frozen breast milk. I had to explain what the white substance was in front of my male boss. He then shared that he had four kids and a dog. Thankfully an awkward, embarrassing moment became a bonding experience. We are all in this together.
Equilawbrium: What is your take-home message for our readers who are trying to find their “equilawbrium”?
Olga: Balance and timing are key. Even though I had assistance, I waited until both of my children were out of diapers before joining fast-paced businesses. I knew I wouldn’t be happy trying to maintain high-performance levels working full-speed in two highly demanding parenting and career phases. Motherhood eventually grew easier (e.g., no diapers, breastfeeding, getting up in the middle of the night, etc.) At that point, I took my career to the next level with a position in tech startups.
Equilawbrium: What is the one-word encouragement/support that you would want us to remember?
<<End of Fireside Chat with Olga Mack>>
**A MILLION THANKS TO OLGA!!**
Olga V. Mack is the Vice President at LexisNexis and CEO of Parley Pro, a next-generation contract management pioneer of digital negotiation technology. Olga embraces legal innovation and had dedicated her career to improving and shaping the future of law. She is convinced that by embracing technology, the legal profession will emerge even stronger, more resilient, and more inclusive. She writes for Above the Law, Forbes, ACC Docket, MIT Computational Law Report, Newsweek, and Venture Beat. Olga is an award-winning general counsel, operations professional, startup advisor, public speaker, adjunct professor, and entrepreneur. Olga co-founded SunLaw, an organization dedicated to preparing women in-house attorneys to become general counsels and legal leaders, and WISE to help female law firm partners become rainmakers. She lectures at Berkeley Law and has received numerous awards, including the Silicon Valley Women of Influence, Make Your Mark, Corporate Counsel of the Year, and Women Leaders in Technology Law. She is a fellow of CodeX, the Stanford Law Center for Legal Informatics and a fellow of the College of Law Practice Management. Olga authored Get on Board: Earning Your Ticket to a Corporate Board Seat, Fundamentals of Smart Contract Security and Blockchain Value: Transforming Business Models, Society, and Communities. She is working on Visual IQ for Lawyers, her next book (ABA 2023).
Disclaimer: Any views, information, and personal opinions expressed by the authors or guests are entirely their own and do not reflect or represent those of their employers or clients.