A day in the life of Emma Thayre, Commercial Legal Director at Benefex Limited, a global employee experience provider.
Emma Thayre is a Commercial Legal Director at Benefex Limited, a global employee experience provider. Benefex provides its OneHub platform to more than 1.6 million employees in 650 global organisations across 70 countries and enables customers to design, manage and deliver meaningful employee experiences, from benefits and communications to reward and recognition.
Emma, who is based in the company’s Southampton HQ (or will be when we return to the office), joined Benefex in April this year, having worked previously for KINTO UK Limited as General Counsel, Company Secretary & Data Protection Officer. Emma has worked in-house since graduating from the Legal Practice Course in 2004 and officially qualified in 2011 after gaining exemption from a training contract.
My working week is compressed into four days, so I like to start my working day early, usually waking between 6.00-6.30am and starting work around 7.30. I tend to be a morning person and most productive then, so I have been known to be at my desk by 6.00am during busy periods!
My working day usually starts by checking emails and Teams messages, especially those coming into the shared Legal Inbox that I set up when I started working here. I tend to work until 6.00/6.30pm and I also like to save my non-working Fridays for quiet drafting and admin, so I don’t end up with an overflowing Inbox (I’m keen on neat folders!).
I try to plan out my day as best I can (I like “to do” lists) but I have been working in-house long enough to know that no two days are the same and they very rarely, if ever, go to plan. My key strengths are agility and adaptability, so I’ll react to any changes to the plan quickly and smoothly to ensure I’m supporting the business and enabling sales to the best of my ability. I have also been known to upsell products and close a deal at times – sales training is as important for lawyers as it is for the rest of the business in my view.
There are meetings most days to talk through various contracts on the go, or project work, such as re-designing the contract structure to make it simpler to onboard new customers and serve existing ones.
Because I started during lockdown it has been strange only meeting people over Zoom or Teams. However, I think it has been an exciting challenge and it has meant I have had to work hard to network internally and build relationships with people.
In fact, I have never even been to our HQ so it will be great to pay a visit to Southampton later this year. I’m looking forward to the beanbags and decent coffee!
Lunch is usually something grabbed quickly in-between calls or drafting, although I try to do a few stretches at my desk and I have a mini cycle under my desk to keep my legs moving.
In the afternoon I try to fit in some horizon-scanning or training and catching up with team members about workload and priorities. In those team meetings, especially remotely, I have tried to build in something fun to break the ice and allow us to find out more about each other – like sharing three interesting facts or talking about favourite songs or movies. We have also done scavenger hunts online, and virtual quizzes – anything to ensure that the team feel connected while adapting to this new world.
With a small team in-house (currently myself and one other lawyer working with me on a fixed term contract basis) I can be asked about many different areas. It is important, therefore, to be able to react quickly and try to help colleagues work through challenging queries, even they relate to issues that I am not immediately familiar with.
I have also, in the past, picked up other areas of work, such as ISO certifications, Health & Safety, insurance portfolios and more. As a senior member of the management team I like to ensure I am involved in wider business discussions, including strategy, roadmap design and implementation, and even things like our company Diversity & Inclusion group.
Getting involved early
It is important to involve Legal in wider business meetings because we can often share thoughts and experiences which help shape a project or strategy – plus our highly logical and organised thought processes ensure that there is structure. There is also usually some kind of legal work involved, and 9.9 times out of 10 it is much smoother if we know about it nearer to the beginning of an idea, rather than at the 11th hour.
Building strong, positive relationships is crucial to that because the business needs to trust that its lawyer isn’t going to be a “no” person, and is going to help find the solution pragmatically and commercially. It is important to balance every creative team or project with a legal mind, in my experience (or, even better, find someone like me who is creative, logical and organised!).
I currently have no commute to my home office so, once I log off, I go downstairs to cook dinner with my husband (JustEat counts, right?) and try to convince my 12-year-old son to come off his Xbox and talk to us for half an hour.
I’ll go for a walk around our area in the evening or catch up on something like The Handmaid’s Tale or The Walking Dead – I may even waste an hour looking at TikTok videos of talking dogs (seriously cute!). I love singing and spent an amazing four years singing in a large choir – finding a new one to join is next on my personal to do list.
I thoroughly recommend working in-house to anyone thinking of a career in law now. It’s certainly not the “easy option” though, as some people have said in the past.
It is also as valid and important as training and working in private practice, so it is great to see that we are slowly moving away from some of the more traditional routes to qualifying, which will allow greater opportunities for people from all walks of life to join our profession. It can be challenging, stressful at times, and hard to balance priorities when your colleagues all want their work doing first, but it is incredibly fulfilling, interesting and varied and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Connect with Emma Thayre on LinkedIn