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“Do no evil.” Those are probably the three most famous words from Google Inc.’s unorthodox IPO prospectus last summer. The phrase could also serve as a mantra for Miriam Rivera, deputy general counsel at Google’s 42-lawyer law department. Senior Google executives got a taste of Rivera’s style last holiday season. A contracts attorney at the Internet search company who had been working furiously on a big deal with a deadline hovering around the holidays, ended up having to toil through Christmas Day to complete it. Later, Rivera asked the executive who had set the deadline for the deal why the lawyer had to work over Christmas. She mentioned the custom in the legal department that holidays are sacred and came away with an apology and a promise that it would not happen again. Rivera “isn’t afraid to speak to power,” says her friend and former colleague Jeffrey Belkora, who is now director of decision services at the UCSF Breast Care Center. “She’s got a combination of street smarts and high education, and when you mix that in with her high ethical standards, people take notice.” The second lawyer hired at Google, Rivera quickly built a reputation as a tough, fast negotiator at the contract table. She hammered out deals with scores of companies that use Google’s search tools on their Web sites or buy sponsored links on Google pages. She’s also burnished that image by speaking plainly, building teams and nurturing colleagues. Now, as deputy GC, she’s the “COO of the legal department,” says Christopher Chin, a colleague who stepped into her old job when she was promoted last October. As such, Rivera is charged with making sure the department runs smoothly while GC David Drummond, who is also vice president for corporate development, focuses on long-term strategy. Rivera has already played a big role in building Google’s law department. For starters, she increased the size of the transactions team from one (that would be herself) to 24 people. And this at a company widely known for being very choosy when it comes to hiring. “It’s easier to get into Stanford Law School than to get a job at Google,” deadpans Rivera. The company, she adds, is not only looking for great credentials but a certain something she calls “googleyness,” which she describes as a combination of legal smarts, scientific and tech savvy and being “team players as opposed to divas.” Raised by a single mother in Chicago, Rivera went to Stanford on scholarships, earning a law degree and an MBA. After a stint as an associate at the now defunct Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, Rivera, her entrepreneur husband Clint Korver and Belkora caught the Silicon Valley startup bug. They launched a short-lived company that made business analysis software. “She learned everything from soup to nuts about running a company,” says Belkora. When cash ran low, he says, “Miriam got on the phone with vendors and laid it out very honestly.” Rivera later got an in-house legal job negotiating contracts for Ariba Inc., a software maker. What’s ahead for Rivera? “While I would love to be a general counsel someday, I didn’t enter the profession to do that,” she says. But Belkora sees a sprint to the top. He jokingly refers to Rivera as “the racehorse [who] doesn’t just run fast, she runs well.” Anthony Paonita is an editor at Corporate Counsel magazine, which is affiliated with California GC magazine.

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