“Have you ever thought of a career in legal operations?” The question caught Daniela Dwyer off guard. On one hand, she was already a paralegal and legal assistant. On the other, she had no idea what a legal operations role was.
It was an emerging specialty, after all. If Dwyer was flustered, she didn’t show it. That was partially because the question came from a respected mentor and partially because Dwyer was no stranger to learning on the job. She’s made curiosity and continuous learning the foundation of her professional journey, which has led her to her current role as head of legal operations at BILL.
Born in Mexico City to parents who had limited means and opportunity, Dwyer learned the values of hard work and integrity. She moved with her family to San Jose, California, finished high school, and stayed determined to graduate from college.
Dwyer first entered the workforce at a boutique law firm. When they asked if she was interested in being a paralegal, Dywer’s answer was an instant yes. “I knew what an attorney was but not a paralegal,” she explains. “But I knew that I could figure it out.”
Suddenly, she found herself working on divorce and custody cases while earning her certification and studying business administration at nearby Notre Dame de Namur in Belmont, California. By the time she graduated with a 4.0 GPA, she was pregnant with her first daughter, Avery. She now has two daughters, and she and her husband make it a point to have a work/life balance.
When Dwyer’s mentor asked her about legal operations, she was working at the well-known cloud computing company VMware. An interest in innovation and automation would help her thrive in a new role all about improving business processes within the legal department. She spent the next several years making improvements to VMware’s e-billing, budget processing, process management, and other IT-related projects to essentially build a legal operations function from the ground up.
While others would be intimidated by the uncertainty Dwyer has encountered, she finds it exhilarating. “Stepping out to try new things isn’t hard if you have the right managers and the right level of trust. Once you have that connection, you want to take chances and learn,” she explains. “I’m not afraid of making mistakes because that is how you learn and grow.” A strong network and shared experiences have also helped her bring new projects to a successful close.
Dwyer later joined eBay. Instead of running a new and agile team, she was managing a large team for an iconic legacy company. After six years, she was ready to get out of the corporate environment and get back to doing more hands-on innovation. That desire led her to join BILL, a financial operations platform that automates finance to help small and midsize companies more efficiently pay or get paid.
“My journey from paralegal to head of legal operations has opened my eyes to the value of strong leadership,” she says. “I was fortunate to have good leaders who mentored me, and I have embraced my role as a leader. I will always strive to be a strong leader because I know what it’s like to have a boss that motivates me. I want all of our team to feel valued and motivated.”
After making the move, Dwyer set out to repeat the success she had at VMware. She talked with her chief legal and compliance officer to learn his vision and then analyzed existing tools, projects, and current initiatives to scale the legal and compliance department. Dwyer quickly implemented an e-billing system that will save the team’s time and streamline operational processes by enabling new outside counsel billing guidelines.
Now, she’s busy rolling out an e-discovery and litigation hold and other technology tools while creating a tech road map to guide the organization and introduce new features like a ticking system, a legal intake tool, and a knowledge management platform.
Part of the reason Dwyer chose to come to BILL was because she had a vision that she can build the legal and compliance from the ground up with innovative projects that will shape the legal landscape, enhance efficiency, and drive strategic impact. “I want to be part of seeing where we were two years ago and how we took our department to the next level,” she says.
The legal operations team at BILL expects to be busy. In summer 2021, the company acquired Divvy for a sum of $2.5 billion. Months later, it brought Invoice2go into the fold for $625 million. BILL saw its core revenues increase nearly 175 percent in fiscal year 2022 while total revenue topped $1 billion in fiscal year 2023.
The work of Dwyer and her entire department is helping put BILL in a position to make these moves possible as the company pursues additional growth goals. “We’ve done a lot in just two years, which is exactly why I came to BILL. I wanted to see a company like this grow and know that I get to be a part of it,” she says.
As BILL moves forward, Dwyer’s goal is simple. She is on a quest to set the industry standard for legal operations in Silicon Valley.