Olga V. Mack is CEO of Parley Pro, a modern, (truly!) collaborative, and intuitive contract lifecycle management (CLM) platform that has pioneered online negotiation technology.She is also an award-winning general counsel, operations professional, startup advisor, public speaker, adjunct professor, and entrepreneur. Olga co-founded SunLaw, an organization dedicated to preparing female in-house attorneys to become general counsels and legal leaders, and WISE to help female law firm partners become rainmakers.
Olga is very passionate about disruptive technologies such as blockchain and AI. I served as Vice President of Strategy at Quantstamp (YC W18), the first decentralized security auditing blockchain platform. I co-authored Fundamentals of Smart Contract Security (Momentum Press, 2019) and authored Blockchain Business Models (Business Expert Press, 2020)
How did you first get interested in Blockchain?
A few years ago, I told my husband that instead of pursuing the usual path for a thirty-something general counsel at a start-up – toward the next bigger and better company – I would dive headfirst into the blockchain business world. He was… surprised. And I am certain that, as he politely smiled and asked why, he was wondering if I had hit my midlife crisis earlier than most.
“Imagine that there’s a new candy store in town, with the best candies ever from all over the world,” I began my explanation, watching his expression change from shock to confusion. “Everyone is racing to the candy store, eager to get and gorge on the candy. Well, I have two choices here. I can work to become general counsel and keep telling everyone how to optimize their candy enjoyment while reminding them of the various sugar-related risks, all the while secretly salivating with my hands and mouth pressed against the window of the candy store. Or, I can get in and gorge on the candy. So, I decided to do the latter. I’ll get in early, help build the blockchain industry, and enjoy the process firsthand, instead of vicariously through the experiences of my colleagues.”
He responded: “Sounds good,” mostly because he loves me and values our marriage. And that is how I followed my passion for the cutting-edge technology, advised a few blockchain startups and joined full time in my prior role.
For those who struggle to understand what Blockchain is it, can you explain what it is and why lawyers should be interested in it?
“Blockchain is everything you don’t understand about technology, finance, and law mixed together,” I often joke. It is a complex technology that is still largely experimental.
Blockchain is a type of distributed ledger technology – one of many. At a very high level, blockchain is a time-stamped distributed, cryptographically secure database. It allows network participants to establish a trusted and immutable record of transactional data. No intermediaries are needed. It is managed by a network of computers, which is spread across various sites and not owned by any single entity.
This is by no means a comprehensive explanation of blockchain. The better question is why do people need to know exactly how blockchain works? For example, our inability to understand the science of electricity doesn’t stop us from enjoying the benefits of electricity – a well-lit room, warm meal, or dry hair.
In other words, applications are what we generally care about, more than the details of function. And blockchain has endless applications. It can be used to enhance social networks, messengers, games, exchanges, storage platforms, voting systems, prediction markets, online shops, and much more. My book Blockchain Business Models: Transforming Companies, Society, & Communities (Fall 2020) will categorize and discuss many transformative applications in depth.
Where do you see the law going over the next five years, perhaps now with a view in terms of the move from many industries to in-person to remote work, at least on a temporary basis?
A seismic shift is transforming law as we speak. This transformation arrives on the heels of 5 larger technological trends that are redefining how businesses organize and operate. I call them the “five D’s”:
- Decentralization of information
- Democratization of access
- Diversity of thought
These business trends will in turn affect how we practice law and what it means to give legal advice. Catastrophic events, especially those at a global scale, like COVID-19, will speed up these technological trends. Thus, we will see law transform in our lifetimes. I am convinced that the legal profession will emerge even stronger, more resilient, and more inclusive than before by embracing five D’s.
How do you innovate within your current role?
Parley Pro is a next-generation, collaborative, contract lifecycle management (CLM) platform that has pioneered online negotiation technology. We are re-thinking what it means to have an appropriate relationship with a contract at every function, during every stage of the contract lifecycle.
Instead of digitizing existing paper contract processes, we are asking how the state-of-the-art technology can help us to contract better every time. In other words, instead of putting a motor on a buggy to make the buggy run a little faster, we are building an autonomous vehicle for contracts. This way at Parley Pro we are building a truly modern CLM that digitizes all stages of contracting – creation, negotiation, and management.
As a result, Parley Pro CLM simultaneously serves a system of record, intelligence, and engagement. Parley Pro contracts become truly digitally native assets. In the process, our jobs as lawyers are unleveled from risk-managers to assets managers.
What would be some key lessons for a new lawyer or soon to be a lawyer to keep in mind as they enter the world of practicing law?
The way you practice law will change at least seven to ten times in your legal career. Your open mind, curiosity, and an attitude of life-learning will be your biggest assets and competitive advantage.
For example, as COVID-19, a novel coronavirus strain that has not been previously identified in humans, spreads around the world, it is often up to the office of general counsel in a company to help companies be ready, stay nimble, and continue to thrive during the epidemic.
This crisis highlights the increasingly critical role for, and impact of corporate counsel in, the modern world. Their ability to solve new problems and lead under pressure are key even though their law school likely did not prepare them for this type of global crisis.