We asked Legal Value Network member Alexandra Guajardo, Pricing & Analytics Officer at Shell Oil - Central Legal Operations, to tell us more about her career path and what she loves most about what she does. Connect with Alex on LinkedIn.
Tell us how you got into your field.
I started my career as a computer programmer—a bit distant from my current role even though my interest in continuous process improvement has remained a constant. While developing a program, I started working on a way to capture meaningful data for Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFAs). This project led me into a deeper study on AFAs and I began capturing and tracking AFAs for Norton Rose Fulbright. I soon transitioned into a new role that focused on analyzing and reporting on partner profitability and KPIs to increase firm profit margins. This work led to engagements with other law firms where I worked on strategic planning, pricing, negotiations, and financial forecasting. After two decades of working in law firms, I was recruited by Shell Oil. In my current role, I help Shell not only to maximize the value of our external counsel engagements but also continue to build the relationships that result in mutually beneficial engagements.
What do you love most about what you do?
I enjoy learning from others. Being at the center of Legal team activities, Legal Operations has given me the opportunity to work with colleagues from various backgrounds, experience levels, and geographical locations. This range of connections has allowed me to continuously grow and create with many different people. I particularly love working with open-minded people that are eager to improve how we work and proactively look for ways to be better.
What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing legal service professionals today?
As a fast-growing profession, we continue to face the same hurdles I faced early on in my career. For example, establishing credibility with stakeholders is key to identifying opportunities to create value. Earlier in my career, a Partner asked me why he should listen to my recommendations and what I could offer that he didn’t already know as a Partner. My response was simple: I was not there to tell him what to do, but I could offer improvements based on an in-depth assessment of his activities that could yield measurable returns—basic benefits to his bottom line. I earned his trust and earned credibility through demonstrated results. We can break barriers in our profession by recognizing that we may need to still build credibility with our customer base.
One of the most exciting—but also challenging—aspects of legal operations is that it is constantly evolving. We must be change champions and diligently drive initiatives that make sense for the strategy of our respective groups. Legal operations professionals are not always equipped to handle, or supported in dealing with, resistance from stakeholders. This requires us to maintain strong communication and marketing of our work, highlighting benefits and leveraging our skillset where possible. This can at times be tiring, but this also holds an exciting and unique opportunity we have as pioneers of this profession to grow and develop it for the future.
What are you looking forward to most at the 2021 LVNx Conference Experience?
Connecting in person with new and familiar faces of course!
What question(s) are you hoping to have answered, or what topics are you excited to learn more about, during LVNx 2021?
I’m always interested in hearing from others, regardless of the stage of development of their legal operations department. The very nature of what we do is about continuous improvement and learning, so I also like to share my experiences with peer groups and hear their feedback. LVNx is a great opportunity to bring us together as a community and continue to learn and support each other.
Tell us a fun or surprising fact about yourself.
As a teenager, I won several awards for singing in 4 different languages (even though I was only able to speak 2 of them!).