In-House Advisory Committee Member Laurel Palluzi recently joined search company Elastic as its Corporate Counsel. In this role Laurel is responsible for negotiating a voluminous amount of customer agreements, as well as drafting contract playbooks, vendor agreements, and data privacy and processing agreements. Laurel also generally oversees the legal well-being of her company and ensures that the legal review process is efficient and effective.
Laurel is no stranger to managing processes within legal departments. She started her career after law school working for a legal recruiting firm based out of Washington, D.C., where she quickly rose up the ranks to General Counsel and Vice-President. Along the way she wore many hats, fulfilling the role of Director of Operations, which included managing the finances and human resource matters for the firm. Not only was Laurel responsible for the employment law aspects of her company in accordance with a variety of state laws and regulations, but she also quickly became her organization’s expert in the then newly-enacted Affordable Care Act. In this role Laurel saw a great opportunity to transition her business from a paper employment record system to an electronic software system. Laurel oversaw the process of going electronic not just as to the legal aspects of negotiating and closing a software deal, but also from the practical business standpoint of implementation to ensure the system was live and functioning properly. This opportunity provided her with valuable insight into how technology transactions really work. Looking for a new challenge, Laurel sought a role that would utilize her growing expertise in technology transactions and data privacy.
Laurel relocated from the East Coast to Chicago to join the legal department of Enova International, Inc., an online consumer and small business lending company. Although Laurel had no real ties to the Midwest, she knew that Chicago was a solid market for her desired career path and that if she wanted to grow in this area, she would have to consider a relocation. In her role at Enova, Laurel negotiated thousands of vendor contracts and redesigned the vendor management process. Because Enova had so many vendor agreements, one of Laurel’s challenges was ensuring that each agreement was properly approved by the legal department. One of the ways that Laurel ensured legal compliance was to debunk the myth of attorneys as “business killers.” According to Laurel, in-house counsel is a little bit like the company therapist—she must be a good listener and a creative problem solver trusted by internal clients to troubleshoot issues before they become serious stumbling blocks. In turn, employees approach in-house counsel early and are more open to advice, which negates the need to point out major issues after a deal is nearly finalized. By taking this approach, employees followed appropriate compliance guidelines, and in the process she became a trusted team member.
Laurel believes that one of the reasons she has been so successful in growing her career is because she adheres to the philosophy that in-house counsel should remain a generalist willing to tackle every problem presented to her. For someone like Laurel, “that’s not my department” is simply not a part of her vocabulary. If presented with an issue that is not truly legal in nature or that will not easily be resolved through legal means, Laurel will suggest a suitable non-legal alternative, and will always be willing to listen and talk through the issue to the satisfaction of those involved. Laurel’s advice to anyone seeking to succeed in an in-house position is to look for opportunities to prove your true value to the company through creative problem solving rather than assuming that by deference that the in-house counsel role is viewed as inherently valuable.
When she is not managing legal processes, Laurel enjoys volunteering in her free time. In addition to her role with ChiWIP, Laurel is an animal lover, a passionate animal welfare activist, and an adoption counselor and Kitty City volunteer for PAWS Chicago, which she credits as the main reason why her home is not completely overrun with kittens. Laurel was a dancer for more than twenty years (ballet, jazz, lyrical, she danced it all), and she also enjoys taking dance and pilates classes when her schedule permits. Thanks for bringing your positive energy and many talents to the ChiWIP In-House Advisory Committee, Laurel!
Meet some of our other ChiWIP members here!
Do you have someone you would like to nominate for a member spotlight? To nominate or to share your own success story, please fill out the form here.