Getting to Know You: Michael Carroll, Council Member for the City of Irvine, California

Michael Carroll was born and raised in New York. After graduating from high school, Michael enrolled in American University in Washington, D.C. Following his undergraduate degree, he attended law school at St. John’s University in New York City.

Upon entering the professional world, Michael Carroll went to work with the international law firm Willkie, Farr & Gallagher, L.L.P. From there, he accepted a position as General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer at a publicly traded company listed on the NASDAQ index, before being recruited by another major New York City law firm to practice corporate and securities law.

Michael then began a new chapter in his life when he relocated to Orange County, California with his family. There, he co-founded 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. Michael Carroll served as the first Chairman of that utility.

Once comfortably situated in his new home city, Michael’s sense of civic duty took hold, and he took on the roles of Chairman of the Community Services Commission and Vice-Chair of the Planning Commission for the City of Irvine. Currently, Michael Carroll owns and operates Carroll & Carroll, PC, a boutique legal practice that also sometimes operates under the name CorpGen Counsel. He also sits on the city council of Irvine, California.

Additionally, Michael Carroll is widely recognized for the humanitarian and nonprofit work he has done over the course of his career. He is a former board member of the Orange County Press Club, OneOC (formerly the Volunteer Center of Orange County), and Child Aid. He is also the former president of the Vista Verde K-8 School Foundation, as well as the recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award for his pro bono legal representation of the Orange County Rescue Mission and its Village of Hope, a 262-bed transitional housing program for homeless men, women, and children.

What do you currently do at your company?

On the government side, I’m one of five council members that lead the city of Irvine, California, the 13th largest city in the state of California. In this capacity, I work with the city manager and the mayor to help govern and run city operations. In my private practice, I work with corporate clients overseeing general corporate mergers and acquisitions and practicing intellectual property law.

What was the inspiration behind your business?

When I was young, I was fortunate to have strong and supportive teachers and an excellent guidance counselor at my public high school. Later on, I was very fortunate to obtain student loans which enabled me to attend a four-year college. I was the first person in my family to do that. I was also the recipient of a great opportunity in law school when I was recruited to work at a big law firm in New York City.

Because society did so much for me and provided so many opportunities for my success, I felt like it was incumbent on me to give back in some way. Serving the public interest in terms of being a leader in the community became important to me, and that inspired me to get involved in government.

Tell us one long-term goal in your career.

A long-term goal of mine would be to somehow contribute to making a positive change in the environment. I want to make a permanent reduction in the harmful emissions and carbon footprint of our community. We’ve started to do that, but my goal is to try to reduce it further and really help make a lasting, permanent change.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned through the course of your career?

The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is to be very thorough in your pursuits and leave no stone unturned. Give whatever project you’re working on your best effort because that way, even if it doesn’t work out the way you wanted it to in the end, you did everything you possibly could to make it happen. It’s never wasted effort if it’s a worthwhile endeavor.

What advice would you give to others aspiring to succeed in your field?

Don’t give up until you find the one thing that keeps you up at night, keeps you interested, and you can’t stop doing it. Do everything you can to pursue whatever that is as your career.

How do you maintain a solid work life balance? 

It’s not easy to do, particularly after the pandemic, but it’s important to keep a schedule of your personal activities, professional activities, and family activities. Follow that schedule carefully, so you ensure that you’re giving enough time to your family, friends, and community.

What is one piece of technology that helps you the most in your daily routine?

It would have to be my smartphone calendar. It keeps me on track with what I’m supposed to be doing at any given time. It also keeps me focused on what’s coming up in the next few days or weeks. It’s a wonderful piece of technology.

Who has been a role model to you and why?

In many ways, my wife has been a role model to me because she’s worked so hard to achieve success. She also has a wonderful work ethic, a sense of compassion, and boundless energy. It’s really something to behold. She’s someone I look to literally each day for strength and guidance.

What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?

The one piece of advice that I have never forgotten is an inscription that sits in the auditorium of my high school in New York. It’s a famous quote that says, “The virtue lies in the struggle, not the prize.” What that means is everything that you do is about overcoming the odds, or achieving things after a great deal of hard work. The virtue, the goodness, and the accomplishment lies in the journey, not the outcome. The process of working with others and by yourself to achieve goals is the most important and most valuable part of the process.

What does success look like to you?

Success is one’s ability to spend their day working on things that they love to do.