Remembering Gayle McCormick O’Connor

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“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” ― Mae West

The industry lost a dear friend this past weekend. Gayle McCormick O’Connor. She wore several hats over the more than 40 years she contributed to the legal industry, from law librarian to paralegal to marketing strategist and consultant to the stars. She was one of the most outgoing, energetic, and experienced people in our industry.

Craig Ball said she lights up a room. Doug Austin posted that Gayle was one of the nicest people he’s ever known. And Bob Ambrogi wrote that Gayle was warm and thoughtful and vivacious. She is all that and more. Together with her husband Tom, who is also a dear friend and an ACEDS Advisory Board Member, they were one of the power couples of the industry.

Gayle’s unexpected passing shocked and saddened us, and it strikes us at ACEDS that as devastating as it is, this industry has a unique way of coalescing around good and sad times and finding the joy. So, we remember and memorialize a few thoughts about Gayle here.

How We Met

Mike: I first met Gayle years ago at an ABA Tech Show in Chicago. She and her husband Tom were regular attendees. And they usually made it to Fest in Chicago, too. Anyone in the know will recall they loved the train ride alongside the Mississippi from New Orleans to Chicago, a 20-hour haul. At breakfast in Chicago, the two regaled the simple beauty of the trip. It was clear to me they enjoyed each other’s company. They would tell me stories of the trip and the stops they made along the way. But before long our conversations always turned to New Orleans and usually to Jazz Fest and to the annual inquiry: “When are you coming to New Orleans?” And then we’d reminisce about bands we’d seen and the classic rock of the 60s and 70s.

Maribel: Gayle and I met at ILTA several years ago, by chance, randomly, in a main area as we were walking to our next session. Gayle spotted me and smiled, and I did same. She ran over to me and immediately complimented me on my 5-inch heels. Gayle also had on heels and an amazing outfit. We immediately became friends, talking shoes, clothes, and of course, marketing. Later that evening, at a social event, we both realized that our other common connection besides shoes was her husband, Tom, who I had known for quite some time. Every time after that first meeting, we would see each other at a conference and run to each other with big smiles and lots to chatter. Tom would spot me at a conference and say “Gayle is shopping” or “She’s over at the booth” or some other place knowing that I would run to find her. If I was on a dance floor at ILTA or Fest, Gayle would soon be by my side in her spiky boots or heels and me in mine, and we’d dance for hours.

What most may not know is that Gayle and I spoke quite often. Almost weekly, we would exchange notes or texts or a quick catch up call that always ended with a “love ya.” When my father passed, she was there for me, constantly checking in. She shared stories of her mothers with me and of plans that her and Tom would have. When she landed her role at EDT, she couldn’t contain the news and sent me a note right away. We celebrated over the phone.

Gayle and Tom would share stories of Jazz Fest and invite me down to visit. This past year I had planned to visit them both but of course it wasn’t meant to be.

Ari: I have known Tom and Gayle for many years, but was fortunate to really get to know Gayle over the past seven months on the Virtual Lunch. We saw each other on Zoom regularly during over 100 discussions throughout the pandemic. She was often the first or second attendee so she always occupied the square next to mine. She was a true original, with a style, spirit, and smile that brightened up our world.

How We Will Remember Her

Mike: I will remember Gayle as a powerful tour de force in our industry. Always with a smile and helpful advice. Never with an agenda and always open and welcoming no matter who or where. Quirky, but only in the very best of ways, she did indeed light up a room, and when you met her you knew why and how. She spoke her mind with an endearing honesty that was refreshing. She just had a good soul and a warm heart. And the biggest smile in the industry. That’s perhaps what I’ll remember most—walking across some sidewalk in front (or behind) some hotel to grab a quick smoke between sessions and seeing Gayle across the way –smiling, with open arms, like I hadn’t seen her at Breakfast. I’m thankful to know her and now even more sad now that I never made it to New Orleans. Tom, I promise, I’ll get there.

Maribel: I will remember Gayle as beautiful and youthful. She was full of life and love with a spiritual aura that grew and grew as she entered a room and engaged with everyone around her. An aura that you couldn’t avoid because it would engulf you and fill you with her energy and happiness. And I’ll honor Gayle by continuing to wear high heels and dancing the night away during every conference. I’ll greet everyone with as big a smile as Gayle would, and I’ll sing “Happy Birthday” to each of our mutual friends so that we all know she is always with us. And I’ll finally make that trip to Jazz Fest and dance the night away there, too, remembering my beautiful friend.

Ari: I will miss her laugh, personality, and generous presence. She was a wonderful member and supporter of both the e-discovery and Virtual Lunch communities, and I am so grateful for the many opportunities I had to learn from and collaborate with her.

Rest in peace, Gayle. We miss you already.
Mike, Maribel and Ari

“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching, Love like you’ll never be hurt, Sing like there’s nobody listening, And live like it’s heaven on earth.” ― William W. Purkey

Mike Quartararo on EmailMike Quartararo on LinkedinMike Quartararo on Twitter
Mike Quartararo
Mike Quartararo is the President of the Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists (ACEDS), the world’s leading organization providing training and certification in e-discovery to law firms, corporate legal departments and the broader the legal community. He is also the author of the 2016 book Project Management in Electronic Discovery and has been successfully consulting in information governance, e-discovery, project management and legal technology for two decades, including 10-year stints at both Skadden Arps and Stroock. A graduate of the State University of New York, he is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and a Certified E-Discovery Specialist (CEDS). He frequently writes and speaks on e-discovery, legal operations, project management and technology topics. Reach him via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @mikequartararo.
Maribel Rivera on Email
Maribel Rivera
VP, Strategy and Client Engagement at ACEDS
As Vice President of Strategy and Client Engagement at ACEDS, Maribel is responsible for local chapter, membership, event management, and strategic partner engagement. A seasoned professional who has helped brands and businesses connect with their audiences and achieve their goals, her breadth of experience, strategic and creative abilities unlock innovation and bring business ideas to life. Prior to ACEDS, she consulted for a variety of private clients in technology, education, and recruiting, crafting and leading marketing and operations solutions for small and mid-sized companies. She also worked as director of sales operations for Fronteo USA Inc. An active member of Women in eDiscovery and ARMA Metro NYC, she also devotes time to charitable work. She speaks regularly on marketing and diversity and inclusion. When she isn’t working, Maribel enjoys traveling, reading, education and working out. Reach her at [email protected].
Ari Kaplan on Email
Ari Kaplan
Ari Kaplan, an attorney and legal industry analyst, is an inaugural Fastcase 50 honoree, a fellow of the College of Law Practice Management, and a finalist for the International Legal Technology Association’s Thought Leader of the Year award. He is the author of Reinventing Professional Services: Building Your Business in the Digital Marketplace (Wiley, 2011) and The Opportunity Maker: Strategies for Inspiring Your Legal Career Through Creative Networking and Business Development (West Academic, 2nd Ed. 2016). Kaplan serves as the principal researcher for a variety of widely distributed benchmarking reports, has been the keynote speaker for events worldwide, and is the founder of the Lawcountability® business development platform. He is also a two-time Ironman triathlon finisher.

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