David Evans’ first task after taking over the legal ops function at PubMatic was to implement a contract lifecycle management (CLM) system from the ground up, something he knew nothing about but quickly learned by leveraging years of experience as a manager at a real estate developer.
“I was a backfill for someone going on maternity leave who ended up choosing to stay an at-home mom,” Evans, the legal ops chief for Nextdoor, said in an In-House Outliers podcast.
He joined online ad company PubMatic in 2014 as a temp but his project and asset management and budgeting experience enabled him to step in when he had to despite his unfamiliarity with what he was asked to do.
“Asset management was a very analytical role,” he said. “Project management, vendor sourcing, budgeting and forecasting and all that – I really learned a lot in that role, which has transitioned for me [on] the legal team.”
Evans was only a month into his role when the general counsel and the two staff attorneys selected the CLM they wanted and handed it off to him to implement.
“It’s on your plate, go figure it out,” he said. “So that’s what I did.”
Evans said he’s learned to count on stakeholder feedback to ensure new systems actually make people’s jobs easier in the way they’re intended.
“I tell people all the time, ‘Give me the feedback,’” he said. “Let me know what’s working, what’s not working. I’m willing to adjust and figure out a solution that fixes the problem for everybody.”
Evans implemented two additional systems after the CLM integration was completed at PubMatic, enabling him to bring to Nextdoor the one thing he didn’t have at the previous company: hands-on legal ops experience.
“I felt like I had an opportunity to do it all over again,” he said.
The neighborhood social networking company, which went public earlier this year, had been operating for about a decade without a legal staff when Evans joined in 2019 as the fourth legal-department hire. Much of what he learned at PubMatic he tapped to build out all of the legal department’s systems.
“We needed to get a CLM and a structure in place,” he said. “It was triage. Within six months, we had Jira, Ironclad and SimpleLegal all up and running to a decent satisfaction level.”
The company’s transition to public markets was relatively seamless from a legal ops standpoint because it had its systems in place by then and they were being iterated on a regular basis, so no major adjustment was needed.
“You have to develop processes for something that you weren’t necessarily expecting,” he said, “so constantly reevaluating and iterating on whatever you’re doing.”
Even with the tweaking, the systems at most are only being used at about 80% of their capabilities, Evans said, and they probably won’t get to 100% capacity without adding a legal support person who specializes in the tools.
“There’s only so much you can do,” Evans said. “You can specialize in anything that you want, and some individuals out there are so proficient in any one column of legal operations. I look forward to building a team where we do have specialists in all these spaces.”
At Nextdoor, the legal team has grown to about a dozen people but he remains the only legal ops person.
“I’ve brought contractors on board here and there to help with some projects,” he said. “And we used some interns that have helped, especially with data migration. Now I’m looking forward to building up a legal ops team here in the next year or so.”