A DAY IN THE LIFE OF: Rachel Clark, senior counsel at BAE Systems, Military Air & Information...
The alarm goes at 6am and I’m out of the door by 7am. I live in Cheshire but work in Lancashire so I have a long but relatively quick drive to work; 45 minutes to our Samlesbury site and 70 minutes to our Warton site. I have a desk at each location and my diary leads where I work. I make my daily pilgrimage to the onsite Costa and eat breakfast at my desk whilst I check emails and plan my day.
I support several programmes: Hawk Aircraft Programmes (sale and support of the Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer), Training and Services (aircraft maintenance and air and ground crew training) and F-35 (part of the consortium that designed and manufactures and supports the F-35 Lightning II Strike Fighter). Each one is a large business in its own right, with its own management committee, business plan, budgets, project and functional teams and competing requirements for legal support.
With the exception of Fridays, when I try to catch up on emails, HR actions and admin, I don’t have a regular routine. My diary includes management and project meetings for each programme, legal team meetings and ad-hoc meetings according to the work on my desk. My participation ranges from lead (dealing with a particular legal issue) to watching brief (being the voice of legal in an engineering review). I could easily fill my days with meetings, so I’m selective about what I attend.
I often have a working lunch but, if the sun is shining - or, as I’m on an airfield in the north of England, the wind is less than gale force and the rain is set to vertical rather than horizontal – I’ll walk around the site for 20 minutes. If I’m lucky, I’ll catch a mini air show or at least a take-off or landing.
When I’m not in meetings, I’m advising on contracts with customers and suppliers, looking at export control licensing or fielding queries about anything from car park signs to errant wildlife or what constitutes force majeure. We keep the majority of work in-house but I use the services of our head office legal hub in specialist areas, such as pensions and dispute resolution and engage external lawyers for advice - particularly in foreign jurisdictions.
Bearing in mind the complexity of what we do and the global footprint of where we do it, there’s no shortage of laws and regulations to get to grips with and, with the added dimensions of international governments and armed forces, certainly no chance of being bored.
Late afternoons and early evenings often involve calls and email exchanges on US programmes. The majority of my US colleagues are on the east coast, so the timings are usually pretty civilised for both sides - although I view the traffic-beating 4.30am start of one Washington-based colleague as nothing less than barbaric!
I try to leave the office at around 6pm, although that can drift to 7pm and beyond, particularly when we’re in a bid process. Specific requirements to stay late or work weekends are rare but can arise for urgent issues or to support our customers’ operational requirements. When I get home, I’ll go for a run to clear my head before relaxing for the evening.
Due to the location of our sites, and a stringent gifts and hospitality policy, it’s pretty rare that I attend evening networking events, although visits to relationship firms and CPD events in London or Manchester are more frequent. There are plenty of opportunities for travel, of late to the US and Europe, and also to the Middle East and Asia. The chances of taking to the air in a Hawk are somewhat remote but, if the call ever comes, I’ll be at the front of the queue to don a flight suit and experience some Gs!