Jul 27, 2020 • 15M

🔊 DoorDash Head of Commercial Kathy Zhu on Staying Nimble Despite Bandwidth Constraints

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Raad Ahmed
Welcome to Not Billable. Weekly legal news updates. Full event replays. And, a chance to hear from industry leaders about what’s been going on behind the scenes. Powered by Lawtrades, and hosted by their Head of Community, Matt Margolis.
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Key Takeaways

  • Creating efficiencies and working with Lawtrades to access contract attorneys have both been critical to addressing company needs post-Covid

  • Technology allows a lean team to accommodate heavy volume efficiently and effectively

  • Nothing speaks louder than data, especially to someone in finance. If you can show someone concrete metrics, you can make a business justification for a particular spend

Resources Mentioned


  • Kathy M. Zhu is Director of Commercial & Legal Ops at DoorDash

  • She is also an advisor to LegalDesk, a workflow optimization platform designed to help in-house legal teams to manage requests as well as visualize workflow metrics on a beautiful dashboard. Kathy advises LegalDesk on product strategy and design based on learnings from her own experience from scaling a commercial team, managing multiple workstreams, and dealing with volume challenges.

  • Kathy is a graduate of Notre Dame and the University of Michigan Law School and is based in San Francisco, CA

  • She was formally Senior Counsel at Medallia, where she worked on key customer accounts including Hilton, Shell, Farmer's Insurance, and Toyota. Before moving to Medallia, she worked as an associate in corporate practice for the private Palo Alto law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati

The DoorDash Legal Team

  • Legal team is comprised of 22 individuals and will continue to grow

  • Commercial side of the DoorDash legal team handles the company’s contracting needs worldwide, whereas Legal Ops is a brand new branch of the legal team that is still developing

  • Additional legal team verticals beyond those overseen by Kathy: Product, Regulatory, Corporate Litigation, and Employment

Dealing with Uncertainty Post- Covid 

  • Uncertainty is a challenge that everyone faces – DoorDash is focusing its efforts on supporting the communities that need its services now more than ever

  • Kathy has been helping to adjusting the company’s customer-facing approach and our internal business practices to accommodate work-from-home needs and the changing nature of everyday life

  • These challenges are not a sprint, they’re a marathon, which is why she reached out to Lawtrades to onboard contractors that help us DoorDash meet its evolving business needs

  • What drives the supportive internal team at DoorDash is that the work they’re doing is meaningful, partially because it is helping so many to maintain livelihoods so that they can put food on the table

Managing Bandwidth Constraints

  • She is navigating the issue of adjusted prioritization by creating efficiencies wherever she can. Doordash has a significant volume issue that isn’t going to become scalable simply by “throwing more bodies” at that reality

  • Evolving solutions include: Creating thresholds to minimize the deals that qualify for team support, creating self-help playbooks and a wiki to help others answer commonly asked questions without direct team involvement, etc. to enable the teams she supports to “help themselves.” This is an approach for smaller legal departments and solo practitioners to keep in mind at this chaotic time and moving into the future

  • Kathy relies heavily on technology to not only give her visibility into the work volume each member of her team is navigating, but also to track overall volume so that she can adjust the team’s collective approach (including qualification of thresholds) accordingly

  • She uses contract attorneys through Lawtrades (cost effective, high-quality talent) for overflow work which helps to bridge the gap between hires

  • Every team member “owns” certain verticals so there is no time waste assigning tasks and there is an organic streamlining of “point of contact” for DoorDash clients. – To that end, leads within verticals are empowered to handle prioritization of legal requests because they are in the best position to make informed decisions within their specialization

Utilizing Outside Counsel 

  • Kathy’s team is very lean and supports a profound volume of verticals. It is the systems and tools Kathy has already noted (including hiring contract attorneys through Lawtrades to bridge gaps) that allow it to function as successfully as it does

  • Spotting where an additional efficiency could serve as a game changer is critical (ie: a client that is a volume-intensive request generator could benefit from new tools that will allow them to cut down on generation requests)

  • Use technology to gain visibility into your work so that you can translate those metrics into greater efficiency(Better metrics enable you to make informed decisions so that you can get ahead of your work instead of being crushed by it)

Getting Access to the Resources Your Legal Department Needs

  • Nothing speaks louder than data, especially to someone in finance. If you can show someone concrete metrics, you can make a business justification for a particular spend

Use Cases: Bringing on Contract Attorneys 

  • Contractors have helped us with overflow volume when a team member is out on leave

  • Contactor playbooks help to ensure that there is no training time waste when onboarding outside help – we create them for different areas of focus and they serve as reference tools for as long as a contractor is working with us

  • Automatic intake processes cut down on manually assigning work to outside help

  • We make expectations crystal clear (including speed/task completion rate) and only train contractors in the specific areas they’ll be working in  – contract attorneys have been a great resource for us

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