Tom Dunlop

Tom Dunlop

Head of Legal at

Tom shares a typical day in his working life

Zuto is a leading online car finance broker that is on a mission to provide such a compelling car buying journey that consumers will not choose to buy a car any other way. The business is still relatively small – it has around 400 employees across sites in Manchester and Macclesfield - but it has seen significant growth year on year for several years following external investment. There are plans in place to continue to scale up at a rapid pace, both in the UK and internationally.

I joined Zuto in September 2016 from a global enterprise software company that followed a similar trajectory to Zuto. I was the sole in-house lawyer in that business too.

Being the sole in-house lawyer of course presents its own sets of challenges, but it also allows opportunities to be involved with company/commercial strategy that may be limited in larger corporations. The reality is that every day is different and it’s the sheer variety which comes with working in fast growth technology companies that I love.

On a typical day, I am usually awake by around 6am - either by my alarm or the call for ‘dada’ from my two-year-old. I am usually then out the door quite quickly; I try and go to the gym and avoid the morning traffic or, if I don’t quite feel that energetic, I will spend time with my daughter discussing important issues for the day such as her clothes choice (this often means trying to persuade her that the suggested wellies and swimming costume combination is probably not a good idea!). This inevitably involves a bit of multi-tasking as I simultaneously check and process the diary for the day ahead. This is a skill that I have developed and learned to refine over the last couple of years…!

Once I’ve braved the traffic, I usually arrive at the office around 8.30am and have some breakfast whilst scrolling through the emails or having a call with the CEO or CFO about a strategy or idea that has become the new priority. The businesses’ performance is monitored and discussed daily and so we regularly have trading update meetings in the mornings which churn out actions or insights as to suggested new affiliates, suppliers or lenders. I try to ensure that my mornings are dedicated to either advising the Executive team on potential corporate transactional work or strategy, prioritising changes or drafting new contracts for key affiliate partnerships or negotiating with suppliers and lenders to reflect trading patterns and changes that are required.

By lunchtime, I’ve usually worked up an appetite that can always be satisfied by one of the many dining options around Manchester city centre. Whilst I make every endeavour to limit my lunch to a ‘meal deal’, it’s not uncommon that my hour turns into a visit to the Arndale Food-market or one of the great eateries on Deansgate.

Another perk with working in a technology business is that the office is equipped with the compulsory table tennis room, FIFA area or - as with my previous role - a weekly massage! If time permits, it’s always nice to break up the day with beating a colleague at table tennis too.

I am very conscious that I remain as visible within the business as possible. I believe this is one of the most important things that every in-house counsel should do. However, the consequence is that I will usually be pulled into any number of meetings or conversations throughout the day. I always try and push them to the afternoon if at all possible. These can vary from catch ups with the HR team about the fast-moving recruitment and staff issues they face, litigation actions for complaints costs that we may receive or advising on compliance and regulatory queries given we are an FCA authorised business.

I also try and make sure that I dedicate some time each afternoon for project work which varies from designing and implementing new processes such as dealing with complaints, reviewing or amending the governance structure and policies, designing more effective ways to communicate and/or interact with the business and looking for ways to maximise commercial value from our contractual relationships. I value this time greatly as it is very easy to simply react to day to day queries that inevitably crop up across the business, but ultimately this is the work that increases my visibility across the business and particularly with the Executive team.

There are always days that require me to stay late given the nature of the business and role but I always try and leave by 6pm to make it back for ‘reading’ time with my daughter before she goes to sleep. Most evenings I can avoid doing additional work other than checking the inbox. I know this is definitely a luxury enjoyed by not being international, so generally speaking I try and focus on catching up with my wife and watching terrible television!