Victoria has spent the past 11 years at Manchester Metropolitan University where she covered international activities, brand management, board level support and joint venture. The perfect background for her new role developing the legal function at global e-tailer Beauty Bay.
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!
What/ Who made you consider law as a career?
During the school summer holidays, I sometimes used to tag along with my Dad during his working day. He was in pharma but one lunch time when I was about 14 years old, we were near the Crown Court and he was keen for me to see a live case in action. We managed to get into the public gallery and I watched half an hour of an armed robbery trial. This was the start of my interest in the law. Once I was old enough to go alone, I used to visit the courts to watch different cases and sometimes the barristers would come and take a look at my notes and give me some feedback and encouragement which I found inspiring.
It was become a lawyer or become a surgeon (my other interest - I still love watching surgical documentaries…) but law trumped.
What do you enjoy most about working as an in-house lawyer?
That I get to work collaboratively with colleagues across all areas of the business.
This is particularly so where the legal department positions itself as a business partner rather than just a service provider. I welcome the variety of work that practising in-house brings and the sheer diversity of the legal queries that pass your door every day. I also enjoy that you can actively assess where legal risks are best managed and use your expertise to truly shape how legal considerations should be weaved throughout the architecture of the business and its activities.
What attracted you to work for your current company?
Many reasons. Firstly, I wanted to work in a fast- paced and creative environment and also one where Legal could contribute significantly at a strategic level.
I joined Beauty Bay to establish the in-house legal function from scratch. I had a blank canvas. This was an amazing opportunity where I knew I’d be able to build the business’s legal provision then continue to help it evolve and mature over time.
A significant element of my previous role was contributing to the organisation's internationalisation strategy. Beauty Bay is a global business, bringing products to our ‘beauty obsessed’ so I knew that my international experience would bode well. I expected that creativity would be welcomed at Beauty Bay, and it is. I guess you could use the analogy of a cake. The legal function can be a basic vanilla sponge cake or a vibrant three- tiered rainbow cake with all the dressings. I’m going for the latter whether that’s how advice is delivered or building some creativity in to the legal design of our contracts. Also, I’d say it’s always great to have a genuine interest in the industry you work within. Believe it or not, I undertook a make-up artist course alongside my A-levels and more recently commenced a facialist qualification. I love staying up to date with the beauty sector, so at Beauty Bay it’s a dream- a mix of my love of beauty, law and leadership.
What are the main deliverables of your role?
I’m currently sole counsel at Beauty Bay so I am responsible for supporting the senior leadership team and all areas of the business.
This means I advise upon a broad range of legal areas comprising of commercial contracts, advertising law, brand collaborations including influencer arrangements, logistics, IT, governance and brand management. Essentially, I support across all levels of the business from basic NDAs all the way through to major brand deals.
My preliminary 6 month deliverables include establishing and embedding the function, developing new templates, guidance notes and legal processes and leading upon all legal support including strategic projects and BAU. After just 3 months, legal is now already an integral part of the business.
What do you feel are the most important character traits of an in-house lawyer?
The 3 ‘P’s: proactivity, positivity and persistence. You need to be prepared to regularly step out of your comfort zone.
Every day will be different with unique challenges and opportunities and you’ll need to be proactive in constantly striving to improve service delivery and understand the changing needs of the business. You need to be prepared to roll your sleeves up, balancing multiple priorities which means you must be persistent in delivering quality results every single time. And most importantly, from my point of view, you need to maintain a positive outlook. Law doesn’t need to be boring and as much positivity and humour you can bring to colleagues in delivering your legal advice, then brilliant!
When / If you look for new team members – what is most important to you and why? Ability or character??
Character, always. It goes without saying that there needs to be a solid foundation and baseline ability. But in my eyes, the most critical requirement is someone who has a growth mindset and who is passionate about their role and the business they support.
What would you say to any lawyer considering a move in-house?
I’d recommend it, absolutely, no question. It’s certainly a move to consider if you’re happy to get involved in every aspect of business life. I completed a mini MBA to develop my business acumen and learn more about corporate strategy, financial and management accounting, competitive advantage, economics etc. - which was invaluable. I would also seriously consider it if you’re happy to integrate with other business teams, stepping outside of the legal office and really getting to know other colleagues’ areas of work. In-house work isn’t well suited to the highly risk averse- every business has to tolerate some level of risk to develop and grow (whilst acting within the law)- so that can’t unnerve you and in-house you’ll need to be solutions driven
Working in-house (and certainly as sole counsel) is not for the faint-hearted, but it is extremely rewarding in terms of the scope of your practice; you will certainly never be bored!
- Connect with Mark Levine on LinkedIn
- Connect with Victoria Jones on LinkedIn