Florence Chan has a goal to help teams build an efficient and strategic Legal Department. Driven by practical solutions to complex issues, Florence focuses her career on scaling legal departments by developing process improvements leading to cost reductions, strategic planning, and implementing technology that allows legal professionals to focus on providing legal advice. She currently heads up legal operations for Cloudflare, Inc., a leading security, performance, and reliability company on a mission to build a better Internet. For fun, Florence can be found hosting her (il)LEGAL pop-up bar on Cloudflare’s roof on sunny San Francisco days or online at sfspca.org searching for her next three dogs.
How did you find yourself in your role today?
Looking back on my life, I always wanted the answer or solution faster. I often thought “How do I get there more quickly?” or “There has to be a better way” or “This can’t be the best way to do this.” As a child, this mindset was extremely frustrating to my parents as I would apply it to things like spending hours creating a formula on Excel to automatically calculate my homework for me instead of manually doing it myself. Even back then it seemed archaic to have to do everything manually by paper and pencil. I did not know there was a career path for this type of thinking — it just seemed logical to operate as efficiently as possible.
I fell into legal operations — it wasn’t a career choice when I graduated college. I planned to take one year off before law school but that one year turned into another year and then another year after that. Various professional opportunities came my way with great managers and mentors who recognized what I brought to the table often noting that my skill set didn’t fit traditional roles. I’ve always enjoyed developing solutions to diverse problems so I took on projects that did that. I found that I was always in legal operations — it just wasn’t branded legal operations yet.
What prompted you to go in-house?
I wanted to find a place where I felt most myself — using creative thinking. Since my personality drives to create efficiencies, I saw the opportunity to change the way legal operates. Silicon Valley is a place for innovation and ingenuity, and I thought it would be the place most open to improving how a legal department operates.
How have you partnered with the business side?
A key component of legal operations is about partnering with the business. Working in a collaborative way reduces costs for the company as well as enables the business to flourish. Ironclad has actually been a key tool to help us gather all the various stakeholders’ needs and requests in a streamlined way.
By building conditional questions in Ironclad, we have been able to gather all the appropriate approvers (i.e., from the budget owner to privacy and security review) for a procurement purchase in one place. We are still working cross-functionally to optimize the workflows, but it is an ongoing relationship with several teams to ensure we all get what we need into one place and the information flows from one stakeholder to the next.
What brings you the most satisfaction in your role? What makes you say, “Nailed it!”?
When I hear the attorneys have deep discussions on the complexity of legal and policy issues because they are not bogged down by operational, internal cross functional problems. I have done my job behind the scenes to make the system run more smoothly so the team can focus their attention on complex issues.
Our values are intent, integrity, drive and empathy — can you give an example of a value you talk about within your Legal team and how that was exemplified?
Cloudflare’s mission is to help build a better Internet — this isn’t just a tagline, it is how we operate — with integrity and building trust with customers and partners. It’s been one year since our company has gone public and the requirements of a public company are significantly higher from a compliance point of view. We are continuously building end-to-end processes and tool integrations in order to meet those legal requirements as a public company.
The team is also responsible for the development of Cloudflare’s Corporate Social Responsibility programs, which include:
- Project Galileo: Launched in 2014, Project Galileo provides Cloudflare’s security services, free of charge, to qualified public interest groups like artists, advocates, humanitarian organizations, and the voices of political dissent. Today, Cloudflare provides these services to nearly 1,000 organizations.
- The Athenian Project: In 2017, Cloudflare launched its Athenian Project, an effort to protect state and local government election websites from cyber attacks, for free. The program now protects more than 200 entities across 28 states.
- Cloudflare for Campaigns: In early 2020, we launched Cloudflare for Campaigns in coordination with Defending Digital Campaigns to provide similar security services to the operations of political candidates regardless of party or viewpoint, for free to eligible U.S. campaigns.
What core skills do you think Legal Ops Managers should rock?
- Strategic and financial skills: Experimentation and innovation, a willingness to ask questions, and grit. The department’s operation manager gives effect to the General Counsel’s vision and direction. The General Counsel knows their desired end result, but it is the legal operations manager’s job to determine the means of reaching the finish line in the most innovative, efficient, and cost-effective way.
- Operational: Being nimble and able to organize and problem solve. It’s like playing a game of Tetris — you need to look at a legal team and see how each piece fits in order to get the most points. Where are the random pieces? How to put them in the right place so it works? What allows the entire team to run smoothly?
There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to maximize a team’s ability to protect and grow the company or how a legal department can become more efficient — it is dependent on the company culture, legal team dynamics, budget and headcount, and priorities of the business.
How has your team navigated in this remote-first world?
Cloudflare is all about transparency and supporting its employees through this hectic and chaotic time. Cloudflare has a Business Continuity Team and has tailored business continuity plans per office and function.
Keeping our calendars up to date is essential. We are respectful of blocked time — we are all navigating in a world where home life and work life blur together. We understand the ongoing demands on all of us who are caregivers to children, parents, and others during this time.
Our team hosts a variety of social break activities, such as themed events (e.g., Cloudflare Jeopardy, virtual scavenger hunt, and Legal, Policy, Trust & Safety Family Feud, and virtual Escape Rooms), open water cooler rooms during the week where anyone can stop by to say hi, and an assigned cross geographical and practice area get to know each other segment called 5 Questions. These events help us connect with one another and take a break during the day.
COVID has actually given us an early test on how our team can scale remotely. Prior to COVID, the team was mostly based out of San Francisco with plans to hire and expand in our other offices, such as Lisbon and Austin. COVID challenged us to get our operations in order faster — updating our internal and external wiki pages with standard processes and templates, recording team meetings so teammates who are in different time zones can access the content at a time convenient for them, utilizing chat and video conferencing to replace the in person drop bys of “hey you have a minute to weigh in on this” conversations, and 15-minute standing team meetings to connect on any important issues. The team is used to challenges and has always been able to keep calm and have the mentality of “let’s get the job done.”
Who, or what, inspires you?
People who speak up for those who do not have voices (like my childhood friend who fights for immigrant rights on a daily basis). Those with grit — the ability to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, learn the lesson, and keep moving forward.
People with grace, patience, kindness, and compassion (like Michelle Obama). Working mothers who hustle everyday to do the corporate life and be the CEO of the house (shoutout to my Tiger Mom). All the dreamers (those who march to the beat of their own drum, don’t mind what others say, and make magic happen).
What would you tell your 25-year-old self?
- Stop being blonde. Embrace the dark side. Your hair will thank you.
- Relax, it’s not that serious.
- The August 22, 2020 Super Lotto numbers are 20, 24, 28., 35, 37, 22.
- Most importantly, be present and live today. Your life turns out better than you ever imagined or planned for.
What are two things people don’t know about you? Fun facts or secret talents?
I learned how to pick locks as a child because I would often forget my keys and didn’t want my parents to think I was irresponsible or forgetful. I started using the bobby pins in my hair and then I found paper clips to be a better lockpicking tool.
What book are you reading right now?
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. I wanted to rethink deeply rooted ideas about race and how and why to put anti-racism into practice. Usually I’m reading fiction (mostly mystic realism) to get a brief escape from reality — basically anything by Haruki Murakami or Isabel Allende.
More about Ironclad
Ironclad is the leading digital contracting platform for legal teams. By streamlining contract workflows, from creation and approvals to compliance and insights, Ironclad frees legal to be the strategic advisors they’re meant to be. Ironclad is used by modern General Counsels and their teams at companies like Dropbox, AppDynamics and Fitbit to unlock the power of their contracts data. Ironclad was named one of the 20 Rising Stars as part of the Forbes 2019 Cloud 100 list, the definitive list of the top 100 private cloud companies in the world. The company is backed by investors like Accel, Sequoia, Y Combinator and Emergence Capital. To learn more, visit our homepage.
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