Mike Carroll

Councilmember for the City of Irvine, California

Originally from New York, Mike Carroll attended college at American University in Washington, D.C., before returning to his home state to enroll in law school at St. John’s University.

Upon completing his studies, Mike accepted a position with Willkie Farr & Gallagher, L.L.P. After spending a certain amount of time with that firm, he became General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer of a NASDAQ-traded public company, before practicing corporate and securities law at a major international law firm headquartered in New York City. At this point in his career, Mike believed that he had accumulated the requisite knowledge and experience to leave the corporate world behind and build his own firm. He co-founded CorpGen Counsel, a boutique legal practice also known as Carroll & Carroll, P.C., and set to work as a corporate and transactional attorney.

Currently, Mike Carroll is a City Council Member in Irvine, California, having been the beneficiary of a bi-partisan appointment in 2019. He was then elected to a four-year term in 2020 with the second highest number of votes in the municipality’s history. Prior to that, Mike served as Chairman of the Community Services Commission and Vice Chair of the Planning Commission. Mike is also the founding Chairman of the Orange County Power Authority, a public utility that offers clean, renewable electric power to more than 825,000 Orange County residents and small businesses.

Outside of his life in law and municipal politics, Mike Carroll is noted for his many philanthropic and volunteer efforts. He is a former board member of the Orange County Press Club, as well as OneOC (formerly Volunteer Center of Orange County), and Child Aid. He is also the former President of the Vista Verde K-8 School Foundation, and the recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award for his pro bono representation of the Orange County Rescue Mission and its Village of Hope.

Presently, Mike Carroll resides in Irvine with his wife and two daughters.

Where did the idea for your career come from?

There are many companies that need general counsel services and don’t have the ability to hire someone full-time to be an in-house attorney. The idea for my practice was to provide part-time general counsel, on an outsource basis, to work with companies who weren’t able or didn’t want to hire someone internally.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My typical day starts pretty early since we have clients on the East and West Coast, as well as Europe. I start around 6 am with exercising and getting the kids off to school, then once I’m at the office, I try to catch up on as many emails as possible—some come in from Asia overnight—before the phones start ringing. I find the best way to stay productive is to keep checking the calendar and looking at emails throughout the day at certain times. That way, I don’t let anything slip through the cracks.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I think the best way to bring ideas to life is an ongoing and collaborative process which involves brainstorming as a preliminary step. After conducting a session where no suggestion is treated as too crazy or silly, the next step is to focus on more practical things and then work on a plan by drawing up the actions required to execute the idea. As that execution is occurring, it’s important to assess it and understand what’s working and not working, then adjust the plan as the situation dictates.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The widespread public recognition that we need to do something about our environment, and that there is a need to address it is both exciting and relieving—especially here, on the West Coast, where there is smog and other air quality issues. More and more people are recognizing that some of the causes of pollution and extreme weather events are things that we can all work on together. It excites me that, if everyone plays their part, we can make a change for the better.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Waking up a little bit earlier than other people and accomplishing things while conditions are quieter makes me a lot more productive than if I woke up later. Nothing beats getting up early to get a jump on the day and tending to some things that need to be addressed before the workday truly starts and there are a lot of incoming phone calls, emails, and texts.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Be a history major. It’s important to recognize that your passion and what you choose to pursue as a career might be two entirely different things. I would tell my younger self to go learn more about history, rather than focusing all my energy on pursuing a pre-law career.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

White Castle has the greatest burger that was ever created and it is the greatest fast-food item in the world, second only to Taco Bell’s MexiMelt.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Keep a written day planner and fill it out each week on the Monday to prepare for the week to come. It’s annoying and tedious, but it’s really worth it.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

One strategy that has served me well is asking clients if they would serve as a reference. Having clients who are willing to be a solid reference has helped grow our business a lot because prospective clients are able to hear from current ones about the quality of work we do and what sort of results we achieve.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Years ago, I thought it would be a fantastic idea to have a huge office space. We leased this big space, but it turned out we didn’t need that much room because a lot of our people were either working from home or on the road or working at the offices of our clients. We overcame that issue in a very positive way. We met with the landlord and told them that we needed to get out of the lease, but we also offered to help find a new tenant. So, in the end, we were able to negotiate a nice resolution.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Content is king. Specific content is highly desired by potential clients, so a business idea that I think shows a lot of promise is for people who have a corporate law practice to explain things like overcoming certain legal challenges or acquiring companies in as much detail as possible on a blog, video blog, or in a trade journal. The people consuming this content would gain a lot of knowledge about the important aspects, requirements, and possible pitfalls involved in accomplishing these things, but they won’t be able to do it without a trusted partner with a firm grounding in law. So, even though you might be giving away a lot of great information, these are nonetheless legal transactions that potential clients simply cannot do without your help, advice, and counsel. That way, you’re not taking work away from yourself or other lawyers.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

We purchased an air fryer for the house, which is an incredible appliance. By using it, you can cook food that tastes like it was deep fried, but it’s more nutritious because it’s using air to fry the food instead of a bunch of fatty oils. It was a good bargain, too, for the amount that we use it.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

One piece of software I’ve been using a lot is Grammarly. It’s an amazing digital tool that ensures you write documents well. It checks your spelling, sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation to make sure that everything is correct. It’s easy to use and I highly recommend it.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I would recommend Good to Great by James C. Collins. It’s an older book, but it really stands the test of time. It’s a wonderful guide to what makes organizations go from just being mediocre to amazing, successful organizations and companies that deliver on their promises. It’s also a great book because it contains many pieces of wisdom that can be applied to the achievement of personal goals.

What is your favorite quote?

“The virtue lies in the struggle, not the prize.” — Richard Monckton Milnes, 1st Baron Houghton. This quote was painted in huge letters along the entire side of my high school auditorium, and I never forgot it.

Key Learnings:

  • Your passion and your career may be two different things.
  • Keeping a written day planner and physically writing down the tasks you have to do each week helps to keep you organized and use your time efficiently.
  • Collaboration is the best way to bring ideas to life.