Fatima Hussain and Anne Graue talk to inspiring women in their series “Women & Legal Innovation – Global Edition”. The goal is to encourage young women to develop their own voices and become actively involved, through showing them different stories & potential role models.
Who is Mandy Savoca
Mandy Savoca has been in Legal Operations for about 12 years. When talking about Innovation, you can truly see that she loves what she is doing: “Within these last 12 years, I focused on legal tech implementations – contract management and e-billing, matter management, ticketing system – you name it! It’s been a really fun journey!”
At the beginning of her career, she started working as a contracts manager in health care, then worked at PlayStation, Kayak/OpenTable, Square, and most recently Robinhood.
The Value of Coding Skills
When Mandy went to school to become an English teacher, she decided to take coding classes. “My husband is a front-end engineer. It always looked like he was in the Matrix to me.“ Through a one-year coding program, she saw the pieces coming together and everything made sense: “You probably remember in the Myspace days- we were already using coding language. CSS – you were changing the color of your Myspace and adding music. When I started building mobile apps and websites, it was like taking a ton of lego pieces and then at the very end you didn’t know what you would get, but you knew it was going to be awesome.”
Her coding experience has supported her path in Legal Operations. Even if a platform uses no code, it follows coding principles: “I recommend taking coding classes to my team as I believe understanding the fundamentals of it is so important.”
Approaching innovative solutions with a peanut butter sandwich method
When Mandy approaches solutions, she tries to look at them by how many people the solutions are going to impact: How many people will this help?
“I try to prioritize projects that impact a lot of people a little higher. That can be a ticketing system or an intake form – things where we are helping people streamline a process; or it can be as big as a contract management system, where it’s impacting multiple departments of the business.” Mandy then tries to think about it as breaking down the process in a peanut butter sandwich method, where you are thinking about every single touchpoint: “How did you get the bread – meaning: how did you get to the store? Did you drive there, did you walk there? – and how did you get the peanut butter? I try to remember these tiny details of the process so we can automate as much as possible.”
In Legal Operations, you work with many different teams in a company, who sometimes want to do it their own way. Mandy approaches this by hearing them out, and asking them for the reason why they want to do it this way. “I explain that we are working on a common goal and that I will work towards your ideal state, but they have to work with me together to reach the goal.”
Legal Innovation in the US
Mandy highlights that Legal Innovation is very diverse in the US – not only in regards to gender, but also in regards to races and backgrounds: “That’s what changes things: It’s not about listening to someone that sounds the exact same as you, and has the same mindset and ideas – it’s getting someone who totally doesn’t agree with you and then finding a really cool common ground.”
Women & Innovation
Yet, she agrees that we need more women in Legal Innovation. To the question, why she believes so, she replied: “Perspectives! We need women of all backgrounds: We need women with families, we need women without. We need older women, younger women, different races, women from different countries. Women with different approaches, women with innovative ideas. Without their perspectives, we are not going to move forward in technology.”
Through connecting with more women and through making Innovation and Technology more accessible, we get more women involved:“ We need to let them know that there is this really cool path that they probably didn’t hear about. A lot of great legal operations professionals came from legal interns, admin assistants – these people who were doing a little bit of everything. And now they have this beautiful career path, where they can be very powerful in their career and have a voice. Seeing other women do that is one of the first steps:
Oh, she does that? I can do that too!”
Challenges for female professionals
Mandy sometimes feels that, as a woman, she has to try harder and that she has to prove herself: “When I walk in a room and start speaking, I have noticed at times in my career – men try to correct me or interject about a technology, when I know the technology very well.” She solves this, by explaining her background to them and proving that she knows what she is doing: “I understand integration, I understand APIs. It’s been challenging to prove that you know what you are talking about. It’s worth it, but definitely one of the biggest challenges I have had to face in my career.”
Her advice for other females is to not be afraid to speak up: “Use your voice. When I was younger, I was more afraid to speak up to a Director or Senior Executive. As I have gotten older, a lot of this has faded away. You know your stuff, don’t be afraid to voice it. Sometimes you do know the best method forward, sometimes you do know the best practice – but if you are not voicing that and are not part of the conversation it won’t change.”
Role Models on Mandy´s path
Mandy has been inspired by her Mom and brother. They have been her biggest role models: “My mom owns a barber shop in my hometown and she has a voice. She is not afraid to use it. She really encouraged me and my brother to know how and when to speak up and also when to listen. Watching them and having that example has brought me out of my shell.”
About the authors:
Fatima Hussain (left), Anne Graue (right)
Anne Graue is an attorney-at-law and Legal Innovation Advisor. She works as a Legal Counsel in the automotive industry in Germany. Previously, she was Associate General Counsel at TIER Mobility SE – a hyper-growth start-up in the field of e-mobility, where she drove the digitalization & development of the legal department.
Prior to this role, she worked as Legal Counsel at AUDI AG, where she was responsible for litigation in APAC & Europe and advised on e-mobility-related product safety issues. Further prior experience includes working as a criminal judge and associate at Clifford Chance.
Fatima Hussain, LL.M.
Fatima Hussain is an attorney-at-law and Legal Innovation Advisor. She is a Senior Legal Counsel at Trade Republic Bank GmbH, a FinTech in Berlin. Previously, she worked as in-house counsel at Tesla Manufacturing Brandenburg SE and AUDI AG.
During her time at AUDI AG, her responsibilities included providing legal advice on product liability and safety issues in Germany and international markets, for example, the U.S. and South America, and conducting national and international litigation. Prior to joining AUDI AG, she worked as a legal assistant in the Dispute Resolution team at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and in the Banking & Capital Markets team at Clifford Chance LLP in Frankfurt am Main.