Kate Linge shares a day in her life
Working at Topcashback, there is no such thing as a standard day! I am sole in-house counsel and responsible for all legal affairs of the group, both in the UK and internationally. The company has experienced huge growth since starting up over 14 years ago and is now the UK’s largest cashback site with a rapidly growing international presence.
As with so many working parents, the day begins with my youngest barging through the door proudly declaring she has ‘slept until the sunshine’ (6.30am), closely followed by my other two insisting we get up and get Cbeebies on the go. Herding the tribe downstairs and sorting breakfast (whilst jibing by other half to stop pretending he is asleep to avoid the chaos!) is closely followed by a dash to get ready and get out the door by 7.15am.
One of the many upsides working in-house at Topcashback is the dress code. Gone are the days of frantically ironing shirts, pressing suits and donning stilettos and instead I embrace a far more comfortable mix of jeans and pumps.
My commute is just under an hour in the car and I quite enjoy this time to collect my thoughts and plan what lies ahead for the day.
I aim to arrive at work just after 8am and try to make the most of the quiet period before the rest of the office arrives. I start by checking emails to see what has come in overnight, especially from our US office which is based on the east coast. Being the only lawyer in the company means that prioritising is key and I re-juggle the day's ‘to do’ list to reflect any urgent matter that may have arrived on my desk. Certain departments, such as marketing, do need a quicker turnaround than other areas due to the dynamic and fast paced nature of how they work.
I share an office with the CEO, finance director, operations director and strategic director, which allows me a direct insight into the issues facing the business on a daily basis. The benefit of this is that I have the opportunity to get involved in the more commercial and strategic side of the business, but the downside is it can get quite busy at times! As such, I often head off to the quiet areas or meeting rooms to focus on contract reviews or drafting.
Back at my desk I deal with any quick fixes either by email or by going out to the departments and chatting through the issues which they are facing, to see if they can arrive at the solution themselves. I firmly believe in educating and supporting teams with basic contract law understanding, as this up-skills them and gives them more independence to handle the routine contract negotiations. Being an approachable presence in the company is vital, and I try to dispel the scary lawyer myth on a daily basis!
Lunch is a short jaunt across the technology park where our headquarters are based, to the glamorous café to pick up a toastie or jacket potato. I often walk with the directors and discuss important topics such as weekend plans or the previous night’s TV. However, these lunchtime walks can often be used to informally chat through any issues which may have cropped up that day and get a different take on how to approach things. This commercial experience and insight have been such a valuable support, especially being sole counsel.
I try to schedule meetings for the afternoon, which can literally cover anything. Feeding back contract review points, advising on any contentious issues which might be affecting the business, calls with our US team or advising on any compliance points which might crop up. Keeping the advice practical and getting ‘off the fence’ is the most important part of my job, but one which is often the hardest to do.
The in-house lawyer’s Holy Grail is being able to give the business a legally sound answer to whoever wants to hear, but unfortunately this is not always possible. Being able to deliver this message and help find an alternative solution is equally important.
I do a final sweep of any urgent matters and pull together a plan for tomorrow’s tasks, then try to leave the office by 5.30pm. Once through the door, I’m greeted by a whirlwind of kids and the laptop is replaced by homework and bedtime stories. I try to limit work in the evenings unless I have any time sensitive matters and instead drive my other half mad by falling asleep during episodes of the latest box set!