Dan qualified with Eversheds in 2009, leaving them in 2014 to move in-house. Dan has worked in Financial Services, Manufacturing and the travel sector – which is a sector he particularly enjoys. From a secondment at Manchester Airport to joining Thomas Cook, he is now Legal Director at Awaze – Europe’s leading managed vacation rentals group.
In this series, BCL Legal Co-Founder and In-house Managing Director, Mark Levine, finds out a bit more about how lawyers who work in-house have got to where they are, what they do, what they feel are important character traits to have... and what lawyers considering a move in-house should think about!
Important character traits for an In-house lawyer... Dan’s advice is spot on:
You need to be flexible, approachable and a great communicator.
...Dan is certainly all these things and more!
What/ Who made you consider law as a career?
I was studying economics at university but decided early on that working in finance or accounting wasn’t for me. We did some law modules on my course which I found really interesting so I got some work experience in a couple of law firms and decided to go for it. This option had the added bonus of dragging being a student out for an extra two years!
What do you enjoy most about working as an in-house lawyer?
I love the broad variety of responsibilities that an in-house role brings.
In any day I can go from advising on M&A deals and commercial contracts to litigation, employment, compliance and so on. Working in-house has forced me to learn and take on matters outside my expertise. I sit on the company’s senior leadership team and enjoy having an input into business decisions rather than just being limited to giving legal opinions.
What attracted you to work for your current company?
There were a number of factors but top of the list was the people. I met the senior management team and was hugely impressed by their passion and commitment to the business, in particular the General Counsel who made it clear that she would invest the time to help me learn and improve.
The business is also at a really exciting stage of its journey.
Already Europe’s largest vacation rentals business, Awaze is going through a period of operational transformation and has ambitious growth plans. I wanted to be a part of that, as well as being keen to get back into the travel sector where I had worked before and which is a hugely exciting and rewarding sector to work in.
What are the main deliverables of your role?
In general terms it is to lead the UK legal team, working in partnership with the business to provide advice and solutions that support the wider business objectives.
Key to that is how we communicate with the business, providing clear and focused advice that is aligned with our strategy.
Since I joined there has been a big focus on compliance, making sure that we educate the business and create a compliance culture that supports the journey that the business is currently on, finding the balance between effective controls but not handcuffing the business. We have completed a number of acquisitions since I joined so executing those has been key, as well as initiatives like reviewing and improving all our supplier and guest Ts&Cs and managing major IT procurement projects to support the technical transformation that the business is going through.
5. What do you feel are the most important character traits of an in-house lawyer?
You need to be flexible, approachable and a great communicator, as well as having the courage to give clear advice and not sit on the fence.
Calmness under pressure is also a key trait, in the face of a crisis a CEO will look to his legal team to give a measured assessment of what to do rather than adding to the panic.
You also have to be pragmatic and understand what levels of risk senior management is prepared to accept and manage that in the best way possible.
When / If you look for new team members – what is most important to you and why? Ability or Character?
In reality it has to be a mixture of both. Team members need to have the ability to do the work but you will never find somebody who is an expert in every area of law that comes across your desk in an in-house role.
Ultimately you need somebody who is willing to learn and tackle challenges outside their area of expertise.
Building great relationships with people in the business is also key so you need somebody who is likeable and approachable and will fit well with the different teams they will be working with.
What would you say to any lawyer considering a move in-house?
I love working in-house and have never looked back since making the move.
You will broaden both the type of work you are doing and the type of people you interact with. As you progress in your in-house career you will find yourself becoming a business leader rather than somebody who just gives legal advice. At the same time you do need to be prepared to get out of your comfort zone, whether it is being asked about an area of law you are not an expert in or living with a level of legal risk that makes you uncomfortable. I would say give it a go and even if it doesn’t work out you will go back to private practice a more rounded lawyer with great experience under your belt.
- Connect with Mark Levine on LinkedIn
- Connect with Dan Taylor on LinkedIn