In-House Innovation: Interview with Amazon Prime Video Sr. Corporate Counsel

In-House Innovation Mia Morgan Amazon Interview-13

Amazon Prime Video Sr Corporate Counsel Mia Morgan on being innovative in her practice of law and why legal needs a seat at the table.

We had the pleasure of talking with Mia Morgan, Senior Corporate Counsel at Amazon. Prior to a career as a lawyer in tech, she’d worked as a capital markets lawyer at White & Case in New York and Clifford Chance in London. 

For Mia Morgan, being challenged in her role is crucial. 

Moving from a capital markets lawyer at a law firm to supporting the expansion efforts of the Prime Video business meant there was a steep learning curve. 

Mia Morgan, Senior Corporate Counsel at AmazonSenior Corporate Counsel at Amazon Prime Video, Mia Morgan

We had the opportunity to talk with Mia earlier this month about that career transition, including what it means to be innovative in her practice and why Legal needs a seat at the table. 

Interview with Mia Morgan, Senior Corporate Counsel at Amazon

PactSafe:

Tell us how you went from capital markets to working for Amazon.

Mia Morgan:

Thanks for the opportunity to chat with you! I think people look at my path and either think it makes complete sense or none at all. Like so many law students, I joined a big law firm after law school. It was intense but I liked the work and actually thought I was in it for the long haul; I wasn't looking for a way out. Changing firms and moving to London was a big jump but I saw it as not only an opportunity to live and practice abroad but also to diversify my work. I also honestly just wanted to do it, so I did. I know we are going to chat a bit about innovation but we can't be afraid to innovate on ourselves! I was completely out of my comfort zone but that move was great for me personally and professionally. 

Leaving for Amazon and moving to Seattle was completely unexpected! I joined just before the global launch of Prime Video, which means the last four years have been this amazing roller coaster centered in international expansion and it eventually allowed me to return to London. It was another leap, another challenge that has so far proven to be well worth it. 

Listen: How TiVo is Making Complex Legal Issues as Simple as Possible

PactSafe:

If you had no experience in the technology space, why do you think Prime Video and Amazon took the chance to put you in this role and know you could succeed, aside from the fact that #BlackGirlMagic?

Mia Morgan:

I think there are a few reasons. But, the main one is actually not at all specific to me, which is that Amazon as a company has a history of hiring smart people and "repurposing" them. Our general recruiting and hiring philosophy is based in the leadership principles. And it's more about, does any particular individual raise the bar against these core principles such that they could come in and succeed at a number of different things.

I remember telling my manager after orientation, "I have no idea how to do this job." I had never negotiated a content license agreement or thought about content regulations in Australia or Europe but I had negotiated complicated agreements for capital markets transactions and advised on securities laws. And I realized, hey I can draft, I can problem solve, I can unpack a regulation--I can put those pieces together and make something happen. You realize very quickly how transferable many skills are and how nimble you can be as a lawyer.

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PactSafe:

What does it take to be successful at your job?

Mia Morgan:

One of the things I constantly ask myself  is "do I understand the strategic objectives of this business?" Because I can't be at my best as an advisor if I don't have visibility into what my client is trying to do. I spend a lot of time trying to understand the industry, why we make certain decisions or develop certain features, what our customers are telling us they want to see. [To do this job well] you also have to be comfortable making decisions quickly, with limited information. You have to be comfortable trusting your judgment, knowing when to take smart risks, be able to look around corners and anticipate next steps. And have fun with it, that helps. 

PactSafe:

Do you have to convince stakeholders to give you a seat at the table to make those decisions or is that something they insist on? 

Mia Morgan:

One of the things that I'm quite fortunate with in my current role is that I support a business - a company - that generally views legal as a partner and as a key stakeholder. On any given day, the questions on my plate are 60-40 legal/business and which part is the 60 vs 40 is constantly changing. I quite like that; I still get to be a lawyer, but then I also get to help input into strategic decisions about our business and have my opinion be valued in that space. That's again why it's important to understand the business so that you're actually trusted to offer feedback that's useful and helpful.

PactSafe:

What does legal innovation mean to you in your role, at your job, in your department? 

Mia Morgan:

We move fast around here! Which means the legal team needs to think nimbly and strategically on big issues at scale and without getting slowed down by simple processes. For example, on legal tech innovation, there are varying levels of complexity across the agreements we need in place to run the business but there's certainly a growing end of that spectrum, high volume/easy to standardize processes, where various elements can be automated. That creates an opportunity to put in place a framework that empowers the business to move forward quickly. There are so many tools available and I am constantly looking for ways to simplify, to be efficient with the ultimate resource of time. We solve hard problems and that's really where I want my team to be focused, that's where I want them to be spending their time. 

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PactSafe:

What challenges does your team face and how do you overcome them, either regularly or a recent, notable one?

Mia Morgan:

One challenge is actually getting adoption of those  automation tools! You can have the greatest ideas on ways to move fast, ways to automate, but you then also have to figure out ways to drive adoption. Before introducing a new tool, you have to do the work to make sure the folks using it will understand it: is this a tool that they  actually want? Is this a tool that is actually going to solve the problem or is it just going to reallocate the work and create a different pain point? 

Another challenge comes with the novelty of the space I work in, the lack of precedent and clear answers. I think one of  the hardest things about my job is that it's in this space that is so rapidly changing. Every single day someone asks me a question that I don't know the answer to and I have to pause because I have literally never thought about it...and it is possible nobody else has thought about it either. That's hard, but I also love it and it is what keeps things interesting. It means I'm constantly learning.

PactSafe:

Any Prime Video movie or TV show recommendations for us before you go?

Mia Morgan:

Living in London, I loved the Small Axe series from Steve McQueen. Sound of Metal is also a great watch. 

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Read: Thinking Like A Tech Company: Interview With James Hafen of Extra Space Storage - Part 1 and Part 2

Watch: Platform Preview: PactSafe for Online Terms Management

Listen: How to Drive Innovation In Your Legal Department with Sr. Director of Legal Ops at TIBCO: Legal Departments of the Future Podcast.


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