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Elizabeth Miller’s path to becoming a legal operations leader began well before she even knew the field existed. In her formative years, she made habits out of staying curious, paying attention to detail, and finding the best way to do things. Those values set her up for success right out of college in an advertising business office.
During her first week in the job, she looked at her company’s metrics and found them troubling. “A significant portion of our invoices were in dispute, our payments were typically late, and we weren’t happy with the advertisement placement we were getting,” Miller recalls. “It was obvious that we needed to align on expectations with our advertisers, so I drafted billing guidelines. Our advertising exposure, metrics, and relationships immediately improved. It’s funny to me now because implementing billing guidelines is legal operations 101.”
This gave Miller a sneak peek into what she’d one day become an expert in: helping organizations identify gaps and take practical steps toward filling them. After a progression of finance roles, she landed in the legal department at Boston Scientific and saw an opportunity to make a much bigger impact.
“I was able step back and see that nobody oversaw the scope of the department other than the general counsel and his focus was managing risk and strategizing our legal matters,” Miller explains.
She brought it to the attention of the GC, who tasked her with writing a job description for a role that could address the challenges Miller pointed out. “That part was easy, but I didn’t know what to call it,” she says, chuckling. “Google suggested ‘legal operations’ and that was the first time I had heard that term.”
In the same way that her company brings innovation and efficiency to card issuing and payment processing, Miller drives innovation and efficiency in its legal department and throughout the organization. She partners cross-functionally to implement the strategic vision and solutions that speed time to revenue and enable scalability in a rapidly growing business.
Her projects include optimizing support, functionality, automation, and standardization of a poorly adopted contracts tool; implementing an artificial intelligence-enabled repository to provide visibility into contract commitments; and implementing a workflow automation tool and redesigned vendor management process with an integrated instant NDA that reduced cycle time by 53 percent while strengthening controls.
Her team also automated the legal case intake, assignment, closure, and work distribution visualization processes. And, of course, there’s the billing guidelines. Miller automated the legal fee accrual and rate enforcement processes, eliminating unapproved rate increases which in itself funds her entire team.
Today, the department is focused on creating more self-service capabilities to take attorneys out of certain review processes. “If we create standard preapproved templates that remove attorneys from the review process then they can focus on higher impact, higher strategy work, and that leads to improved job satisfaction,” she says.
“Elizabeth Miller is a powerful thought leader in the legal operations community, and we were thrilled to get an opportunity to work with her once again through her role at Marqeta,” says Matt Spanos, global director of enterprise growth at Mitratech. “We continue to collaborate closely on identifying additional processes that are ripe for innovation, leveraging TAP to provide immediate value through workflow automation and digital transformation.”
Miller’s perspective on identifying opportunities is people-centered. “There is always a department or company priority—risk reduction, cost control, scalability—but it’s also important to ask the team about their pain points and aim to alleviate them,” she says. “This is a good indicator of tasks ripe for automation, outsourcing, or making self-service, but it also builds engagement. We spend a lot of time working—it should be fun and rewarding.”
Her approach is informed by her time at Boston Scientific and Dolby, where her work revolved around vendor management, legal technology, budget, value improvement, metrics and reporting, project management, communications, and events. In those roles, she had to learn to build relationships and gain trust.
“When I started out in this role, I couldn’t find anyone doing something similar. It’s exciting how much legal operations has grown in the past few years and how much this community leverages each other. And it makes sense; implementing legal ops is a no brainer,” she says. “My teams have all funded themselves many times over, sometimes on a single deal.” In addition to her leadership role at Marqeta, Miller is on the advisory board for two legal operations communities and participates in many others. In fact, her Dolby team was even a 2021 finalist for ALM’s “Most Innovative Legal Operations Team.”