Louise, firstly – can you tell readers of The Brief a bit about yourself and background?
Well, I spent much of my early career in private practice at DLA Piper’s Manchester and London offices as a corporate lawyer. I also worked at Slaughter and May before going back to DLA Piper in Manchester. I then took an in-house general commercial role at The Co-operative Group and spent eight years there before joining boohoo.com as head of legal in September 2013. I have two little boys, Tom and Arthur (aged seven and five), who take up most of my time outside work!
You’re now company secretary & general counsel at boohoo.com, what does your day to day role entail?
At the moment, I’m trying to build my team to manage the increased workload post our IPO on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange, as there is now a “governance” as well as a “legal” role. I’m also project managing the legal work to support the business generally, including our overseas expansion plans. However, business carries on as usual so my company secretary role involves preparing for both monthly board meetings as well as various committee meetings. In addition, I’m responsible for corporate governance matters so I need to ensure that we comply with the AIM rules, Corporate Governance Codes and all AGM requirements etc. boohoo.com is an amazing place to work; it’s fast, it’s a very entrepreneurial environment and there’s a lot to juggle but I love it!
As a business, boohoo.com recently floated on the stock market. How involved were you in that process?
I was heavily involved. I managed the legal due diligence and the project generally from a legal point of view. As you can probably imagine, my life wasn’t quite my own for a few months but I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was a brilliant experience for me.
What are the key differences for you and your role now the company is public?
The role has expanded massively. It’s much “bigger” as there are now the corporate governance/ company secretarial matters to deal with as well as the more traditional legal work you’d expect to fall in my remit. We’re also all getting used to being in the public eye now we’re a PLC.
boohoo.com is expanding into new territories so what are your biggest challenges from a legal point of view?
The biggest challenge is the diverse consumer laws and requirements that exist in the different jurisdictions along with having to manage operational changes to support the legal changes.
What’s next for boohoo.com as a business?
We’re a growing business with an exciting future; international expansion is at the heart of our growth plans. It’s an exciting place to be.
What made you move in-house from private practice?
I find being a part of a business and actually doing ‘the doing’ far more exciting and stimulating than just advising a client.
What do you think are the main benefits for a company that employs an in-house legal team?
I think there are huge benefits of having an in-house legal team. These include: (1) having a lawyer or lawyers who know and are close to the business and its strategy, rather than just relying on outside advisers who aren’t as involved; they tend not to add as much value as in-house advisers, (2) cost control – having people who know what outsourced work should cost and keeping a tight rein on that, and (3) if you get to know people within the business, it encourages them to come and ask for advice if they aren’t sure about something which, in turn, creates a safer and more stable organisation.
Finally, what advice would you give to someone looking to develop their career in-house and be successful as an in-house lawyer?
My advice would be to get some good private practice experience first and then go for it! I love it – a key part of an in-house lawyer’s role is to build relationships within the business so you need to work on your people skills. You need to be commercial and practical as well as a good lawyer.