Successfully Transitioning From Litigator To In-House

Logan Maley is a true inspiration for anyone looking to make a career transition.

We’re big proponents of all things “off the beaten path,” and a question we get asked quite often is how litigators can make a successful transition from litigation to in-house. Logan Maley, associate general counsel for Procore Technologies, explains how her background in litigation has been key in helping her succeed at the company focusing on revolutionizing the construction industry with its modern and highly effective software programs. When Maley started at Procore, the company was at about 200 employees. Today, Procore’s legal department consists of five people, serves more than 900 employees, and last year, the company was valued at over US$1 billion — so we know Maley isn’t slowing down any time soon!

Understand the “real” risk: Maley started her career as a Biglaw litigator at Skadden’s Los Angeles office, where she handled a variety of complex business litigation matters. “My experience as a litigator provides me with the ability to recognize real versus hypothetical risks,” Maley explains. Having worked through the reality of what happens when something does go wrong, Maley has a unique perspective on why certain things she’s pushing for matter; and consequently, when not to sweat a given hypothetical risk because the likelihood of that risk befalling the company in the real world is minimal. “I make sure my business teams understand certain risks, and I try to suggest ways around those risks. But at the end of the day, litigation is not an unknown to me, so I don’t have the same fear of it that some corporate lawyers do,” Maley adds.

Expand your knowledge base: After several years working as a litigator, Maley realized she wanted to focus on going in-house, so she looked towards broadening her experience while still working as outside counsel. She began doing corporate law for Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth where she advised companies on mergers and acquisitions, financing, and other deals. In addition to her primary corporate transactional practice, she also advised young companies through the New Venture Competition at University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB). When a personal connection led her to open a dialogue with a Procore executive about joining their then one-person legal team as the company’s first general corporate attorney, she was ready to make the move in-house.

Learn the business: To make sure her advice is well-rounded, Maley immediately dove in to learn about the various business units at Procore. As Maley explains, “When I arrived, I knew it was critical for me to understand the business I was going to serve. I have advised many different kinds of companies in the past, and I know how important it is to understand the company’s goals before trying to dispense advice. My first priority at Procore was to learn everything I could about the business, talk to people in the different business units, listen to their goals, and gain their trust. This has allowed me to help my colleagues identify the right path around the land mines to reach their ultimate targets. It also has allowed me to more credibly establish a role for the legal department, and help the company see how they can maximize my role.”

Grow your network: Whether your background is in litigation or corporate law, Maley advises understanding the value that your network brings to a company, and she is committed to ensuring that she leverages and shares those benefits with Procore. “I think one thing great GCs bring with them to the table is an extensive network of other accomplished people who can complement and extend the GC’s own experiences,” she acknowledges. “I appreciate the ability to pick up the phone and call on any number of really smart people who may have been in a similar situation or encountered a similar challenge to bounce ideas and learn from their experiences. It is important to me to build and maintain those relationships.” Maley truly practices what she preaches. She recently went on a week-long trip to the Bay Area where, in addition to juggling the daily demands of her job, she completed her goal of sitting down with as many Bay Area GCs as possible to learn from their war stories, get feedback on how they handled explosive growth, and to build her overall networks of other professionals whom she can reach out to at a moment’s notice.

The legendary basketball coach, John Wooden, is famous for preaching to his teams one of his mantras for success: “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” Maley has embodied this in her career and in her day-to-day job. She credits much of her successful transition to being a quick study and thinker, and having a tireless work ethic. However, her approach is clearly thorough, deliberate, and thoughtful. She thinks about the big picture without missing the key details. As she has thoughtfully navigated her transition from litigation to in-house, Maley has taken important lessons from each step of the way. Maley is a true inspiration for anyone looking to make a career transition — especially if you’re told it can’t be done. Not only has Maley done it, but she has thrived!

This article is co-authored with Katia Bloom and originally published by Above the Law.

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