Katie Dugan, vice president and senior counsel of employment at Match Group, grew up knowing she wanted to be a lawyer. She watched her father, also an attorney, in court while she was in high school and college, and thought it was amazing.
“I knew right away I wanted to go to law school,” she reflects. “Through the lens of my dad and all the things he had done in his life and career, I thought it would be a great education and open up so many doors and opportunities.”
Dugan attended Seton Hall Law School, clerked for a judge in New Jersey, and went on to accept a job with a regional law firm. “I felt a deep connection to employment law,” she says, explaining that much of it is tied to interpersonal relationships and has lots of emotion behind it. “I felt, if this is what I’m going to do for my career, I want to do something I really love.”
When a coworker went on maternity leave, Dugan stepped into her employment law compliance focused role, working on trainings, separation agreements, handbooks, and more. “I really liked it and realized it was a different skill set than being a litigator,” she says. “I wanted to do more of that work.” She moved to another law firm, where her practice consisted of half compliance and half litigation, and then sought an in-house role.
Dugan relocated to Los Angeles and got her first in-house role in 2017 with toy-making giant Mattel. Her work there prepared her well for her current job at Match. “I was used to working with a variety of stakeholders on various issues including policy, procedures, and day-to-day employee relations issues,” she says. She went on to work at SaaS company Yext in December 2020 before accepting her current role at Match in 2023.
Having practiced almost ten years before going in-house, Dugan says she brings a depth of substantive experience as well as an understanding of risk analysis. “When you go in-house, people are looking at you to provide valuable input on important decisions. People want to hear what you have to say, they want your partnership,” she says. “Working in private practice gave me the confidence to make my opinion known and to help support the businesses.”
Similar to her days at Mattel, Dugan has a number of brands to attend to, all with different needs. “It’s really just prioritizing and understanding what’s urgent, who you need to get back to, what fires need to be put out first, and long-term planning in terms of what bigger initiatives and projects you want to get done,” she says.
She aims to move ahead with progress on trainings as well as update international policies and employee handbooks at quarterly or yearly intervals. “If you keep aligned with longer-term projects and initiatives, there’s so much value you can add beyond the day-to-day partnership,” Dugan explains.
At Yext, which has employees in the US, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, India, and beyond, she learned about ownership of the various elements under the umbrella of global employment. “It was only me. I was really digging into the weeds on the global employment piece,” she says. “I’m excited to share my knowledge of working in-house across different companies, bringing that knowledge here to see what, if anything, can be done better.”
Today, the lawyer and mother of three says she’s excited about Match’s mission, its focus on human connection, and people finding a spark. Relationship building is also important to being successful in her job, she adds, because partnership with stakeholders makes her work go smoothly. “You want them to come to you for advice,” Dugan says. “I’m not just telling them what my legal advice is and walking away. I’m partnering with them on every aspect to make the best decision they can.”
As the sole labor and employment attorney for Match at present, Dugan says she’s enjoying meeting the new people and tackling the new issues as well as exploring any process improvements she can make. “I love diving into things,” she says, “I love just looking at ways I can improve processes and also ways I can upscale the skill sets of the people around me.”
Being a good listener is a key skill for the role, she explains. “You can understand what the issues and the problems are, and it also helps you build trust and relationships among the different business partners,” Dugan says. “Being on the management side versus a plaintiff’s attorney, I help people make decisions that aren’t just legally correct but are the right thing to do.”
“Katie is a great business partner who is attuned to the employment issues that may arise and impact an organization. Littler is proud to celebrate Katie’s achievements and recognition in Modern Counsel.”
—Elaine Baker, Shareholder