THE RISE OF THE MODERN GC

Over 12 weeks and 12 virtual interviews Donna Rosenberg from Jameson Legal invited Senior Lawyers to speak about their career experiences plus provide additional content on various different topics associated with ‘The Rise of the Modern GC’.

All participants were generous of their time in putting together information to help Lawyers to learn more about a career in-house, providing information at the highest level. These interviews gave Lawyers the benefit of their insight, helping Lawyers to make career choices to move in-house as well as for those Lawyers who aspire General Counsel and/or other strategic management positions.

We spoke on topics such as having a future road map when thinking about a career in-house, the importance of in-house legal to the development of a company, the challenges of flexible / hybrid working, changes in the legal profession and the impact these changes may have on Lawyers, the route to getting to senior and/or management positions, how to pick the best in-house legal team and how technology is changing legal environments. And, so much more!

Below is a snapshot of some of those discussions. To see the full videos, go to https://www.jamesonlegal.com/news-blog

Sharon Evans, General Counsel from Totally Money

How important is legal to the development of a company?

‘Incredibly important! My experience is from an early point of view at an early stage of a scaling up business you can wear two hats in a business of this sort. On the one hand you have the business trying to get going and all the stuff the business wants to do in order to grow and on the other hand, the job is giving the business guidelines around that and creating a safe place to play. You need to make it, so you are not stepping on their toes too much and stifling that growth but giving them guardrails to do what they need to do. You can be involved in the issues where you can really add value. You must also have one eye on the foundations and as an in-house Lawyers you are guardians of the business and protect the business. Getting the foundations right and even if there isn’t anybody else talking about these things, making sure that you are the person in the room who is thinking what is coming down the line such as funding and due diligence exercises making sure you add value from a compliance, regulatory and corporate governance perspective so that all of these topics and structural systems and processes are in place and there are the right foundations to scale. This is an interesting area of your job that your CEO or whoever you report into might not realise needs to be worked out. It is important to be a business partner, helping the business through deals and in the background protecting future value.

Will Scrimshaw, General Counsel and SVP from BenevolentAI

What are some of the challenges regarding flexible working that may present in the future for Lawyers and are there any pros and cons?

Everyone has been talking about this ad nauseum for a whole year and most of the commentary about working remotely and flexibly is generically applicable to any professional services person who works at a computer. Lawyers may have an umbrella function in terms of having oversight of the company at a relatively high level role alongside the CEO and CFO. So, joining the dots is a lot of what you do to ensure that one part of the business knows what the other part of the business is doing. For a Lawyer, this can be hard to do off-line and I think that the flexible / hybrid model which everyone is tending towards is mid-point between addressing the logical complexities around making sure you are present and getting amongst your clients and being a part of hearing about information that you wouldn’t ordinarily hear or be a part of if you were not in the office. Primarily, I think it is a huge positive for people lucky enough to work from home so the fact that the legal profession can do this, is great!

Nick Pester, General Counsel of Zego

What advice would you give a Lawyer looking to train and remain in private practice earlier in their career before going in-house versus a Lawyer who seeks an in-house career straight after training and the quality of training they will receive once in-house?

Everybody is different. I had always harboured aspirations of going in-house throughout my career and my decision was slightly later than some people would have made it. That was a personal choice. People can be set on being in-house from the beginning. One of the Lawyers in our team has been in-house her whole career and she loves it and has no regrets of not being in Private Practice and she has a different set of commercial skills, and she loves the day to day involvement in the business. For most people the training contract in Private Practice, spending a couple of years in Private Practice and then thinking seriously about where you see your future will be the route that most Lawyers take. By 2-3 years PQE you will be starting to think about partnership route in Private Practice or in-house. Moving in-house is starting to become more sophisticated in terms of the internal legal functions and in the past, it might have been viewed as moving to one position and staying there and moving sidewards for a longer period, before getting to move upwards. Opportunities in-house are more varied and there is an increase in tendency to resource in-house with economic pressures, so the opportunities in-house are greater than they were when I was training. Don’t base the assumption that the standard training contact for 2 years in Private Practice is what you should do. It is easy to assume this is the norm and make sure you think about what it is that interests you. Are you more concerned about working with lots of different companies and getting rounded experience and being technically a Lawyer or being more interested about being a Lawyer in-house and being part of something, a business that is growing and, in many ways a faster paced environment? Interrogate yourself about what it is you want and what fits your character?

Leah Brown, General Counsel and Company Secretary at Trussle

How important do you feel it is to have a future roadmap when moving in-house?

I know that Lawyers love to plan and many people who are working in Private Practice may have gone on a client secondment or perhaps did paralegal roles before qualification. Those people may already know they want to go in-house and structure their move in-house because of that. Lawyers may also want to move in-house because they want better hours or want more flexibility. Depending on the position you choose, you might find it is quite hard when in -house to progress your legal career because of an established GC or CLO so there may be a degree of trial and effort in succeeding. So, the hardest thing to figure out is what you want in your in-house legal career and where you want your legal career to go. So, for me it was a business with an altruistic element as well as exposure to technical and transactional work with career progression and development. I definitely didn’t have a road map when I was working in Private Practice as I didn’t know then that I was looking for a GC role, but I did learn a huge amount of what I wanted when I was the second legal hire directly under the GC and Head of Legal.

Donna Rosenberg is Director and Head of In-House for UK & Europe at Jameson Legal and a Specialist Legal Recruiter. She supports her clients to hire Great Lawyers and Company Secretaries. Get in touch at donna.rosenberg@jamesonlegal.com.