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What were you doing before moving to EMR?
I was a partner in the corporate team at Eversheds’ Manchester office focussing on mainstream M&A activity.
Why did you decide to move in-house?
Having had a positive experience earlier in my career in-house at AstraZeneca I was always aware of what life was like as an in-house lawyer. Whilst at Eversheds I worked closely with the EMR team over many years and had seen it grow to the size it is today. When it became clear that there was a role for an in-house lawyer I was delighted to get involved as I was interested in the opportunity to establish a legal function from scratch in a hugely successful business.
Other aspects that appealed to me about moving in-house included: the chance to ‘return’ to doing the work as opposed to moving into more of a management role which is often the case when you become a partner in a law firm, the interesting variety of work and earning new areas of law also appealed.
Did you think about returning in-house prior to now?
I was always very keen to achieve partnership at a leading law firm. Once this was achieved, I had an open mind to moving in-house. However, interesting and senior roles were few and far between – then the right opportunity with EMR came up.
When do you think is the optimum stage in a lawyers career to make the move in-house?
Five or six years PQE. You get great opportunities in private practice and this helps to build your confidence as a lawyer. In PP you learn about being in a service industry. It teaches you that the client comes first and there are consequences if you lose sight of this. This is a great learning experience which serves you well in-house. Having said this I am aware of many lawyers who have moved much earlier in their career who I respect and know to be excellent at what they do.
Are you EMR’s first in-house lawyer?
Why did the company decide to recruit an in-house lawyer?
The business grew dramatically and with that came more complex and numerous high value legal issues and this in turn led to increased legal spend. The benefits of having a lawyer ‘on-site’ increases response times to queries and greater understanding of the commercial issues.
What is your role?
To provide advice on all legal issues affecting the business. Also to instruct and manage external counsel. Currently the mix of legal work is 30% litigation, 30% real estate, 10% HR
20% corporate & commercial and10% other such as SHE, shipping, insurance etc. However, this mix changes depending upon what is happening within the business.
Is being an in-house lawyer different to how you thought it would be?
Yes. I am really enjoying the variety. For example, as a trainee I hated commercial property work, however here, because I am so involved with the business it is interesting. You visit the site; see the issues and it helps the law ‘come alive’. I am also enjoying being out of my comfort zone and dealing with a wide variety of people that make up our business (not just lawyers!)
What are you enjoying most about being in-house?
The interesting and varied nature of the work, not just doing corporate which is my specialism means that everyday two to three issues arise that challenge me and having the opportunity to turn your hand to these different issues. It’s also great being of value to the business, interacting with the external lawyers that we use and of course, no timesheets!
What characteristics make for a good in-house lawyer?
The ability to analayse risks and take educated commercial decisions – these decisions may or may not be right but someone has to take them and you need to have the confidence to not sit on the fence. You also have to have a willingness to learn and have a common sense approach. Another thing is to possibly not look or come across like a lawyer – something that I still get accused of! In my opinion this is not a bad thing as it often helps with building respect for the role we play.
What has been your greatest effect on the company so far?
Bringing control over the legal process. As the legal work gets more varied it is harder for the business to keep a track of where everything is up to and the costs being incurred. Now at any time our chief executive can knock on my door and I can tell him where we are up to – having already negotiated the ‘right deal’ on the money front!
Would you move back in to private practice?
At partner level once you lose your client base this would be very hard to do. More importantly I am very happy in this role and hope to be doing it for a long time to come.