What it Really Means to be a Tech Lawyer at Osborne Clarke

‘Forward thinking’, ‘technologically advanced’ and ‘digitally savvy’, but a few of the phrases quoted by trainees at Osborne Clarke to describe the firm in recent Lex 100 surveys. Far from just a marketing campaign, the international firm’s progressive nature is routinely lauded by clients and employees alike and pervades Osborne Clarke from top to bottom.

The fast pace of digital and technological advances means that the law governing this area has never been so important, and work is abundant. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that a growing number of aspiring solicitors are hoping to become ‘tech lawyers’.

Technology goes across all industry sectors and the scope to undertake technology-oriented work in a law firm is extremely broad. Osborne Clarke’s offering is particularly impressive.

‘What we do really well is pick certain sectors and focus on them’, explains Tom Harding, partner and head of the Bristol-headquartered firm’s Interactive Entertainment practice. ‘It’s all about the application of the law to those sectors; that’s where you really add value and interest to your client’.

Harding heads up Osborne Clarke’s Interactive Entertainment practice, and much of his work focuses on digital and consumer regulatory law, some of of the main challenges currently facing clients in this area. ‘If you download an app from iTunes, for example, the whole process is regulated and what rights and remedies you’ve then got in respect of that particular content is also heavily regulated. There’s a lot of focus on that at the moment, which means that it’s becoming more interesting to our clients’.

Harding’s team is currently advising a big client on its ‘digital transformation’ push. ‘The client doesn’t particularly sell things digitally at the moment so we’re advising on a huge, worldwide project about the design, build and rollout of their digital channels across 30 jurisdictions’. Other recent work includes advising on digital advertising and marketing campaigns, especially around the time of the 2018 football World Cup. ‘A lot of our clients were launching new online products and services and there was a lot of interest around what you could and couldn’t do’.

It’s clear that the work is exciting, thought-provoking and far from the black-letter law which is often taught in the classroom. ‘That’s exactly what I like about working at a technology-focused, digitally driven firm, as a lot of the work you’re doing is all new. We are pushing the boundaries of what the legal framework suggests. It’s far from boring’, enthuses Harding.

It’s not only clients who benefit from the firm’s progressive attitude. Osborne Clarke’s employees reap the rewards of working for an innovative law firm: ‘we try to implement our forward-thinking approach in the firm’s culture too, for example through new technology and through offering practices such as connected working’. This provision definitely does not go unnoticed, with staff from partners to trainees quick to praise the firm’s open, unstuffy culture.

So if you’ve decided that you want to be a tech lawyer, how do you go about making it a reality? Well, Harding’s background is a slightly different one to the say the least. ‘In a former life I used to be a DJ’, he says, ‘the point being that I’ve always liked media and technology and so when I decided to become a lawyer, that was always what I was going to do. Interactive entertainment fits in nicely with that because it’s digital, online and fast-moving, and that is what interests me’.

For those without a background on the Ibiza decks, showing an interest in and/or knowledge of the industry is absolutely vital, says Harding. ‘Demonstrate. Demonstrate why you really want to work in this area. Show the firm that you have a genuine passion for it. Don’t send out blanket applications to numerous firms. If you look at a firm and see that they’re doing something that you really want to be involved with, make that come across in your application. It will work wonders’.

Perseverance is key too: ‘when I applied for a training contract, I sent out 35 applications and got 33 rejections. Don’t give up!’

Osborne Clarke’s recruitment team look for a number of qualities in their candidates, it’s key that all candidates have the ability to listen and learn, a passion to help clients and an interest in the business environment. The firm is also looking for people with a team working ethos, a problem-solving approach and with a keen interest in the firms key sectors. Candidates who are interested in should apply for a vacation scheme placement as this offers individuals the opportunity to spend two weeks in the firm, experiencing first-hand what their lawyers do on a day-to-day basis.

The application process runs from 1 November 2019 – 15 January 2020. To find out more you can visit the website.

Under Pressure – Why In-House Is Not The Easy Option

Making the move in-house? Make sure you go in with your eyes open, advises Legal 500 UK Solicitors editor Georgina Stanley.

Long hours, ever-more demanding clients and an intense focus on partner performance mean the challenges of working in private practice and the resulting toll on lawyers’ wellbeing are only on the increase.

But while many law firms are attempting to foster a more open dialogue about the impact work-related stress can have on the mental and physical health of their staff, the in-house legal community has not always had the same level of scrutiny.

Free from the pressure of billable hours targets, 24/7 client demands and ruthlessly managed remuneration structures, a career in-house is often still seen as an easier option.

Indeed, making the switch from private practice to in-house has never been more popular. And why not? Combine all of the perceived advantages above with the lure of increasingly sophisticated in-house legal teams – with some financial institutions now having more lawyers than many law firms – and the appeal is obvious.

The problem being, of course, that the flipside of the growing prestige of an in-house career is that life for those doing it can be every bit as stressful as for those working in private practice – particularly for those at or near the top.

Corporate counsel may have had to fight long and hard for a seat at the top table and the ear of the CEO, but a rising regulation burden means that in many instances they now have it. And, as with anything, sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for.

For this reason, The Legal 500/Legal Business’s Enterprise GC event – held in West London’s Syon Park this May – set out to debunk the myth that in-house law is an easy career option.

In a session titled ‘A Quality of Life Crisis’, WeWork European GC Sarah Nelson Smith, Ardonagh chief counsel Frances Coats and Alana Tart, a former Latham & Watkins litigator turned group commercial counsel at global information company Ascential, joined Nick Bloy,a former employment lawyer who founded Wellbeing Republic on a panel aimed at setting the record straight on the reality of working in-house.

“The flipside of the growing prestige of an in-house career is that life for those doing it can be every bit as stressful as for those working in private practice”

All three of the practising lawyers initially worked at leading law firms before making the move in-house. And all three admitted that their roles in-house could be every bit as stressful as their previous life on the other side, even if the type of pressure may be different.

Nelson Smith in particular last year found herself in the eye of the storm in her former post as European chief legal officer at KFC, when a high-profile distribution crisis forced the chain to temporarily close a number of restaurants due to a shortage of chicken.

But even without something like this or a Rolls-Royce/Tesco style investigatory scandal, the day-to-day pressure on costs, managing teams, and the expectations of service delivery from the rest of the company are very real. And, depending on the size of the team, those working in-house may not always have the same support network available to them as those in private practice.

That’s obviously not to say that people should shy away from working in-house due to the pressure – they just need to go into it with their eyes open. As the panellists pointed out, on a personal level it means establishing the coping mechanisms for dealing with stress that work for you, whether that is tracking what makes you stressed and thinking about how you can better respond in those situations, exercise or some other hobby, or asking for support (and being open to giving it to others in your team).

And for companies, it means acknowledging the pressure that these roles can bring and making sure that they are doing all the things expected of any employer – including law firms – to help staff. That means open conversations about mental health, building resilience to help employees better cope with stress before it becomes a problem, and putting in place the support systems necessary to help identify and help those in crisis.

“The day-to-day pressure on costs, managing teams, and the expectations of service delivery from the rest of the company are very real”

Nelson Smith used the experience to her advantage, writing a book entitled You Didn’t Mention The Piranhas, which looks at how to navigate through and emerge stronger from a crisis, offering advice on how to juggle the competing demands of work and life.

The session was just one part of a two-day event bringing together a host of leading in-house lawyers to discuss topics ranging from technology, corporate crises and how to deal with them, diversity, legal operations and overhauling a legal function, through to the future of the profession. Speakers included Dame Helen Morrissey, Rolls-Royce’s Mark Gregory, Stephanie Hamon from Barclays, Facebook’s Caroline Kenny, Emily Foges from Luminance, Anglo American’s Richard Price, and DLA Piper’s Simon Levine.

Deloitte launches first-of-its-kind SQE training contract

Accountancy leader Deloitte has devised a three-year training contract which aligns with the requirement of the hotly-anticipated solicitors qualification examination (SQE) which is due to launch in the autumn of 2021.

The big four accountancy giant announced that it will offer ten training contracts beginning in 2020. Applications are open as of today (10 September).

Successful candidates will be able to enrol on the programme straight after graduating from university, with the end goal of qualifying as a solicitor three years later. Trainees will gain qualifying work experience across Deloitte Legal’s myriad practice areas, including tax litigation, employment and corporate and commercial before sitting the SQE1 and SQE2 exams.

Deloitte has worked closely with The University of Law to develop an innovative training programme to ensure students are prepared for the SQE.

Michael Castle, UK managing partner for Deloitte Legal, said: “The legal training environment is undergoing significant change to contend with a rapidly evolving legal landscape. Deloitte Legal is in the fortunate position of being able to immediately adopt the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam, allowing us to be at the forefront of what is undoubtedly an exciting new era in legal education and training.

“We want to broaden access to the profession and make it as inclusive as possible. This is a fantastic opportunity for aspiring solicitors to earn while they learn, while also encountering the wealth of expertise beyond legal work that Deloitte Legal can offer as a multidisciplinary firm.

“Deloitte Legal is a fast-growing and ambitious team that provides clients with new solutions to legal problems. Our trainees will be able to experience the future of law, today.”

Professor Andrea Nollent, Vice-Chancellor and CEO of ULaw, said: “It has always been hugely important for us to nurture the next generation of legal talent. With the new SQE Training Contracts allowing students to experience the real legal world earlier in their career and education, we are now able to team with leading organisations such as Deloitte to continue our aim of providing a more practical and hands-on legal education.”

Women in law: The best London firms for female employees

Under the Equality Act 2010, companies with more than 250 employees were required to publish data on their gender pay gap. The first reports became due in April 2018.

In the first reporting period, the results in the legal profession were striking. What’s more, some UK law firms received criticism for obscuring the results by not including the ratio of female to male partners in the data.

Befittingly, 2019 marks the celebration of a centenary of women in the legal profession, and, in only the second season of gender pay gap reporting, there were thankfully some improvements across the board.

The Magic Circle’s 2019 results:
Slaughter and May published its first partner-level report in March 2019 and revealed that male partners earn on average 8.9% more than their female counterparts. In terms of total earnings, women at Slaughters make up 71% of the lowest quartile and 36.9% of the highest quartile.
• Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s median pay gap improved from 13.3% to 6.2% in 2019, a reduction in disparity of 7.1%.
• At Clifford Chance the male median pay is 26% more than that of female colleagues
• Allen & Overy’s gender pay report revealed an 18% difference between male and female remuneration packages.

The Law Society of England and Wales carried out the largest international survey of women in law to mark International Women’s Day (this year? insert date) and found that 91% of respondents felt that flexible working was critical to improving diversity. Unconscious bias was considered the main barrier to career progression for women, but only 11% of law firms offer any sort of training to tackle this issue. Perhaps more worryingly, only 16% of the 7,781 respondents could see any evidence of their firm actively taking steps to address the gender pay gap.

On a more positive note, examples of firms who are proactive in challenging unconscious bias include:
• Freshfields commiting to having 30% female candidates for partner promotion.
• Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner met its 2018 target of having a 30% female UK-wide partnership, and this year 57% of newly-hired partners were female.
CMS positively leads the way in terms of promoting gender inclusivity with in-house unconscious bias training, a market-leading maternity scheme and a shared parental leave programme.
• Eversheds Sutherland has a 27% female partnership and hopes to reach 30% by 2021.
• Women make up 30% of the executive committee at Allen & Overy.

The latest Lex 100 survey also shed light on some law firms’ impressive commitments to gender equality. Current trainees at RPC consider the firm ‘inclusive and open-minded’ in offering ‘flexible working for parents of either gender’. At Forsters there are ‘lots of amazing female role models’ with new recruits amazed at the percentage of women in high positions. Indeed, managing partner Paul Roberts and senior partner Smita Edwards revealed that ‘over 44% of our partners and 63% of our associates are women, we have ten female partners in leadership positions and women head four of our seven business service groups’, which is better than most comparable London firms’ results.

Moreover, Simmons & Simmons was praised by new recruits for its ‘excellent LGBT and gender balance initiatives’ and Hodge Jones & Allen has impressively introduced a blind recruitment process for this year’s training contract application process. Trainees also commented on ‘the inclusivity of women’ and were pleased to work under two female heads of department; the firm’s partnership is 64% female, compared to 36% male. CMS also has an impressive ‘female representation in leadership’ which was shown in this year’s promotion rounds. Women accounted for 76% of all CMS promotions in the UK, and 47% globally, demonstrating the firm’s commitment to progressing female talent.

The Times Top 50 Employers for women includes the following law firms in its rankings:
Addleshaw Goddard LLP
Allen & Overy
Eversheds Sutherland LLP
Hogan Lovells International LLP
• Linklaters
Norton Rose Fulbright
• Pinsent Masons
Simmons & Simmons

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Tech Hubs: How Technology is Changing the Face of The Legal Industry

Technology is firmly establishing itself in the legal market. Law firms all over the City are taking advantage of the developments in legal tech to provide the most practical solutions to the challenges that clients face.

‘Tech labs’, hubs for digital innovators, have been introduced in several law firms in order to optimise the use of technology to simplify, automate and improve the legal profession. In-house tech labs have been implemented at, Slaughter and May, Dentons, Mishcon de Reya and Allen & Overy, among others.

Tech hubs give start-up entrepreneurs a space to develop their technologies, whilst also providing access to a particular firm’s lawyers for product testing and user feedback. The MDR LAB at Mishcon de Reya was launched in 2017 as a programme for tech start-ups in the legal space. The LAB is open to early stage and growth technology start-ups, and from companies at concept through to revenue-generating stage, as long as the product or service is applicable to the legal industry. The hub provides successful applicants with the opportunity to pilot their technologies to their target market and gain a better understanding of how their technologies benefit legal services.

In reshaping the business and practice of law, ‘innovation’ is the buzz word dominating law firm marketing slogans, but what does it really mean? Robyn Weatherley, programme manager at Mishcon de Reya defines innovation as ‘the process of taking ideas that challenge the status quo and turning them into a reality that ultimately changes the way something is done’.

Certainly, these ‘changes’ focus on making lawyers’ jobs simpler by reducing time spent on administrative tasks, prompting lawyers to ‘question the way things are done’. As Robyn explains: ‘this ultimately encourages a cultural change whereby we create a section of the workforce who are willing to challenge engrained processes and try new ways of doing things’.

Evidently, technology has the ability to automate tasks. Robyn suggests that ‘those firms that are able to explore and adopt new technologies are going to be able to improve efficiencies, remain competitive to existing and potential clients and ultimately stay ahead of the race’. At Mishcon de Reya, members of the MDR LAB will have access to the firm’s legal and business networks and have opportunities to attract investment and/or licensing products to Mishcon. Branding yourself as an ‘innovative firm’ is more important than ever, as it is estimated that 100 of the top 300 law firms will disappear by 2022.

While the legal market is adapting, the role of lawyers will inevitably undergo some change too. Integrating law with tech allows lawyers to focus their time on high-value emotionally intelligent tasks, whilst turning to AI for automation. Robyn explains how this will produce more efficient ways of working: ‘it opens [lawyers’] eyes to the potential impact technology can have on repetitive, time-consuming tasks. From a firm-wide point of view, the future of practising law lies in firms being able to harness technology to automate tasks, capture and interrogate data and use AI’.

Also opening its doors to tech start-ups is Slaughter and May. Collaborate launched in April 2019 and has been created to enhance the firm’s engagement with the best new legal tech developers. The programme helps to ‘shape the development of legal tech and identify future efficiencies in the delivery of legal services more generally’, explain innovation executive, Billie Moore, and head of innovation, Jane Stewart. Slaughter and May even offers cohort members two mentors – a mentor from the firm’s knowledge or innovation teams and a practising lawyer from an area relevant to the entrepreneur’s business. Billie and Jane explain that by giving lawyers the opportunity to mentor entrepreneurs, they are ‘exposed to a broad range of legal tech, allowing them to identify potential pain points or gaps in the market… it’s critical that legal tech development is executed in conjunction with the firm’s lawyers and/or clients’.

Fast Forward is another programme Slaughter and May offers innovators. Launched in October 2016, Fast Forward aims to give young companies access to the first-class legal services that they may need but struggle to find and afford. In January 2019 the firm welcomed its third cohort of successful businesses, which include an email collaboration tool, a social impact fin-tech tool and an e-commerce delivery system to transport parcels to urban areas through utility style pipes.

Focusing on innovation allows Slaughter and May to ‘identify areas for improvement and find new ways of working which add value for our clients, enhance the working lives of employees, and puts us in the best position to win the types of work we want to win’.

The legal tech tools developed by businesses within the tech hub also assist Slaughter and May to deliver its corporate social responsibility strategy. Define is one such tool, which was set up by a visually impaired lawyer who wanted to make the process of reading contracts easier. JUST: Access is another Collaborate cohort member which aims to use legal technology to improve access to justice. Last year the Magic Circle firm invited two A-Level students to coding workshops where ‘the students gained valuable paid work experience and hands-on practice and we gained a lot out of their coding expertise too – a win-win’, says Billie and Jane.

Tech hubs aren’t the only way in which firms are staying ahead of the technological curve; tech-focused training contracts are now being offered at many international outfits. Ashurst offers a graduate scheme with a focus on legal technology, Burges Salmon has announced a new technology-focused partnership with the University of Bristol, and Clifford Chance has developed IGNITE: a law tech training contract.

So do future trainees need an aptitude for technology?

The legal profession is changing. Incorporating digital technology into a law firm ‘creates a group of people who are willing to try new methods that challenge the way things are currently done, helping drive adoption of new technologies’, says Robyn at Mishcon. By supporting entrepreneurs and working with start-ups which benefit legal services, we are starting to see how firms must evolve and reposition themselves in this constantly shifting market. Supporting entrepreneurs and working with start-ups is one such way for law firms to ensure that they are evolving and repositioning themselves in a constantly shifting marketplace. Billie and Jane comment on the benefit of working alongside tech entrepreneurs, ‘it enables us to streamline our legal tech piloting programme, shape the development of legal tech and identify future efficiencies in the delivery of legal services more generally’. And this involves input and willingness from individuals too, who must be able to adapt in order for firms to optimise their resources.

Law firms are competing in the tech race, but how far will they go in utilising legal tech? For now, innovative software is working towards reducing the amount of time lawyers spend on administrative tasks and enabling legal professionals to realign their skills to focus more on intelligent tasks which technology cannot reproduce.

Diversity and Inclusion at Slaughter and May

Interview with Uzma Hamid-Dizier, Head of Inclusion and Corporate Responsibility at Slaughter and May.

Why is having a diverse workforce important?

Firstly, it’s important to recognise that developing a diverse workforce and creating a culture where people feel able to be themselves is the right thing to do. However, it is much more than that; there is also a strong business case for firms like ours to be prioritising our work in this area. Our people are central to the service we provide and we need to draw upon diverse perspectives and viewpoints in order to provide the very best advice to our clients. Having diverse teams of lawyers from different backgrounds and with different experiences brings different ways of looking at problems and means that we can provide our clients with innovative solutions. As such, we see diversity and inclusion as not just a ‘nice to do’ but a business imperative.

What initiatives does Slaughter and May have in place to ensure it recruits a diverse workforce?

Our focus recently has been to challenge the perception that City law firms are not inclusive places to work. One of the ways we do this is by inviting students to the firm to give them the opportunity to experience our inclusive culture for themselves.

We run regular recruitment events targeted at undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds. The aim of these events is to provide students with an insight in to working in the firm and the City more broadly. Attendees hear about the career journeys and experiences of a diverse range of our partners and lawyers and have the opportunity to meet people throughout the firm over the course of the day. These events have proved very popular. The students who attended have told us that they are now seriously considering applying to the firm when they previously felt like it wasn’t an option.

We partner with a number of external organisations to reach out to diverse talent. These include My Plus Students’ Club, an organisation which provides advice and support to disabled graduates as they pursue their chosen career path, and Women in the City Afro Caribbean Network (WCAN). We’re also involved in sector-wide initiatives such as DiversCity, an annual event and mentoring scheme for LGBT students interested in a career in law.

We have also been working hard to ensure our recruitment processes are inclusive. We were the first law firm to engage Rare Recruitment, who specialise in sourcing exceptional people from diverse backgrounds into some of the world’s top organisations.

We also contributed to the development of the Rare Contextual Recruitment system and use it across all our trainee recruitment activity. The system helps us identify candidates with the greatest potential by putting candidates’ grades and achievements in the context of their social and educational background.

How has Slaughter and May been working to improve diversity in senior/leadership positions?

We want to retain and develop a diverse pipeline of talent through to the partnership. To do this we have introduced a range of target development programmes for diverse groups.

We know that mentoring is a highly personalised form of career development and, if it is offered equally, can be one of the most effective ways to improve diversity at all levels of an organisation. We have been participating in the high-profile 30% Club cross-company mentoring scheme for five years, which matches our high-potential women with a senior leader mentor from a FTSE 100 company. We also provide similar cross-company mentoring opportunities to our LGBT employees through our membership with OUTstanding and were the first firm to develop a bespoke cross-company mentoring scheme for our BME employees.

Having a mentor outside of the firm brings with it many benefits. It provides a confidential space to discuss your career with an experienced professional, learn from new perspectives and develop external networks. These schemes are also a great way for our people to meet diverse role models with similar backgrounds and experiences. In addition to the external mentoring, we also offer an internal mentoring scheme which provides our associates with the opportunity to be mentored by a partner outside of their legal group. Our associates can request a mentor from a particular background if they wish.

We’re also celebrating the fifth anniversary of our Female Leadership Development programme for mid to senior level female associates, which we host in partnership with our European Best Friend firms. The six-day programme is run across three European cities and focusses on building leadership skills within the legal sector and relationships across the firms.

How does Slaughter and May avoid diversity becoming a box-ticking exercise?

We approach our work in this area from an inclusion perspective and our definition of diversity goes beyond the protected characteristic under the law. Our aim is to ensure everyone feels valued, included and supported.

Our eight diversity networks are central to this. They play an important role in increasing the visibility of diversity and fostering a spirit of inclusion within the firm and work together as a ‘Network of Networks’.

A key part of the success of our networks is that they genuinely involve people throughout the firm in the discussion. All of our network’s activities are open to everyone in the firm, regardless of whether they identify with a particular group. Everybody is encouraged to attend a network event to learn from different perspectives and meet new people from across the firm.

What assurances would you give to individuals who want to apply for a training contract but feel hesitant to do so because of their gender/sexual orientation/ethnicity/background/disability/any other diversity-related reason?

I would encourage anyone who feels hesitant applying to a firm, whether it be to Slaughter and May or others, to experience the culture for themselves. A firm’s website and brochure can provide useful information, but it can be difficult making a decision on where to begin your career based on this alone, so meeting people at the firm in person is crucial. Make the time to attend open days, law fairs or other firm events and ask partners and lawyers questions about the things that matter to you most. Events are also a great way to meet a diverse range of people working at the firm and hear directly about their experiences. Finding out more about the culture and day-to-day life at the firm first-hand should help make your decision a little easier.

The Role of the Company Secretary in the Charity, Sport, Education and Health Sectors

As a law graduate, your degree opens the doors to a wider career that offers the flexibility to move between public, corporate or not-for-profit sectors. We find out just how transferable the skills of a company secretary really are and how a career in governance can get the most out of your law degree.

Organisations of all types are governed by regulation and standards of practice that are in place to ensure that they operate legally, appropriately, ethically and fairly. Good governance is critical to enable management and the board to deal more effectively with the challenges of running an organisation. ICSA qualified company secretaries and governance professionals offer the board advice about legal, regulatory and ethical matters, to ensure that organisations have appropriate decision-making processes and controls in place so the interests of all stakeholders are balanced.

Are you sports mad? Passionate about the NHS? Want to make a difference at a charity or to someone’s education? A degree in law is your passport to a governance career that opens you up to myriad of industries.

The role of a company secretary is broad, multifaceted and can be crucial in preventing companies from hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons. While corporate governance is a term that many people are familiar with, governance is not just relevant to the corporate world. Governance professionals are in demand in organisations of all kinds – from charities and academy schools to the National Health Service to sport.

“I genuinely think that corporate governance is governance. You apply your skills and experience to the environment you find yourself in”, Laura Latham, Associate Director Corporate Governance, NHS Stockport CCG.

Take the charity sector, for example: governance professionals act as the legal, moral and social conscience of a charity, ensuring that the organisation is run in accordance with its charitable objects and public benefits requirements. But how much do the daily tasks and responsibilities vary from those of a governance professional working in, say, a corporate organisation?

The daily routine of Allison Howe, Head of Governance at NSPCC, would suggest not very much. “Day to day it’s really varied. I do all the board and committee work. I do an awful lot of compliance work, but I also get pulled across the organisation for governance advice and how best to handle things. It’s really interesting.”

It’s a busy job too. On any given day Howe can expect to be pulled in several different directions: “if there’s anything I dislike, and it’s a minor grumble, it’s the number of meetings that I have to manage at any one time. I can have a board and two committee meetings in the space of three days, so it’s constant agenda management and producing the necessary papers. And then my day job on top!”

But the role transcends administrative tasks; seasoned people skills are also paramount in ensuring the successful running of an organisation, charitable or otherwise, as Jo Cooke, Deputy Secretary at the National Trust explains. “We sit between our Director General and our Board of Trustees. We have the job of being essentially a relationship manager between the Executive and Non-Executive.” (Executive directors are members of the board who have management responsibilities whilst non-executive directors are board members who have no responsibilities relating to the day-to-day management of the organisation). “So that means that we handle communications and we make sure our board is informed of what’s happening in the charity”.

Another sector in which the skills of governance professionals are highly sought after is the NHS. One marked difference of working in the health sector, however, is that the board operates in public. “Having the public in the board meetings brings a whole different set of complexities around how you manage difficult conversations, how you present a unified front, how you enable debate and constructive challenging questioning and how you build that engagement element with the public in board meetings”, says Latham.

Being party to important, high-level decisions is also big driver for Latham: “I really like being at the heart of an organisation. I like the sense that you can make things happen, you can unblock problems, you can develop strategy, and actually, if governance is effective it can make an organisation really, really efficient”.

A career in governance can also allow ambitious individuals to rise up the ranks more quickly than they might do elsewhere. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the NHS: “I genuinely do get a sense of pride. There aren’t many jobs that take quite junior staff (in some cases) to the top table of an organisation” adds Latham.

Rob Findlay, Integrity & Compliance Director at British Cycling, is well aware of the similarities between sport and other industries when it comes to governance. “Yes I have to file at Companies House, yes I do the agendas and the minutes for the board meetings and the general meetings, which every company secretary has to do. And we still have the same issues and the same governance challenges”.

The sport industry is also subject to the same level of scrutiny currently facing other sectors, and Findlay has to continually take this into account. “I think the importance of the growing focus on governance within sport and the growing recognition that we need proper governance professionals will change the nature of the organisation”, he says. “The challenge is you have to make sure you’ve got the experience from outside the game, but if you don’t have representatives from the game on your board, you’ve obviously got to make sure that you have all the channels for making sure that you take those issues into account”.

But having proper mechanisms in place is just the beginning. Karen Moorhouse, Director of Operations and Legal at Rugby Football League, elaborates: “so much now is to do with not just having good governance, but demonstrating you’ve got good governance”. For example, “you’ve got to make sure your website’s right in terms of what’s on there and that you’re communicating to all your stakeholders on governance. And then we need to communicate to Sport England, who are a major funder, that we’re fulfilling their requirements and that we can demonstrate that. So really [good governance] ends up in every bit of the organisation”.

But despite the obvious similarities, each industry still has its own nuances, and sport is no exception. Being a sports fan can make working in the industry all the more delicate. “Because everyone is so passionate about sport, which is why it’s a really fantastic industry to work in, it also means it’s an incredibly challenging industry because you’re not just dealing with people on an arm’s length basis. You’re dealing with people’s passion, their lives, their emotions”, says Joy Johnston, Governance Manager, Sport England.

Passion for the subject matter also plays a big role for governance professionals in the education sector. For Anna Machin, Governance & Compliance Manager at Ark, “it’s a really exciting sector to be part of. It’s the chance to literally change the future for young people”.

A successful academy school relies heavily on governance and Tomas Thurogood-Hyde, Head of Governance and Legal for Astrea Academy Trust is entrusted with this weighty responsibility. “I provide legal support to our schools, I look after admissions across the network, and I make sure that our schools’ governance arrangements are being delivered throughout the year”. He describes himself as “a kind of linchpin for governance at the centre [of the organisation] where you’ve got a necessarily dispersed and part-time body of people supporting it at the regional school level”.

So what are the challenges for those overseeing governance in the education sector? The variety of work, which can be both a good and a bad thing, says Machin. “You’re always keeping a million plates spinning to keep things running. I think the expectations in governance are evolving more quickly than they were, which is a good thing because there’s a lot more guidance out there, but then you’re having to continually adapt and evolve your support and your general governance model against that” says Machin.

Regardless of sector, there’s no doubt that the responsibilities, challenges and motivations of company secretaries and governance professionals are readily interchangeable. Equipped with a universally and internationally applicable set of qualifications, they have the ability to work in an industry which interests them. Who wouldn’t want a job like that?

ICSA offer many ways for you to try the role for yourself. You can attend an open evening where you can meet recruiters and practicing company secretaries. Or join an Insight Day where you get to go behind the scenes of an organisation and observe a company secretary’s day-to-day work. These are just some of the ways to discover more about this versatile profession, to get started visit icsa.org.uk/gradhub.


Lex 100 Law Fairs 2019

Look out for us at the following law fairs this autumn and be sure to stop by, say hello and pick up a brand-spanking, shiny (and brightly-coloured) new copy of The Lex 100 2019/20 guide.

The University of Law (London) – 4 September

The University of Bristol (first day) – 3 October

The University of Manchester – 8 October

The University of St Andrews – 9 October

The University of Bristol (second day) – 10 October

The University of York – 16 October

City University of London – 16 October

The University of Sheffield – 21 October

The University of Nottingham – 21 October

Queen Mary University of London – 22 October

The University of Sussex – 23 October

Kings College London – 24 October

University College London (UCL) – 28 October

Cardiff University – 29 October

The University of Oxford – 9 November

The University of Exeter – 20 November

The London Law Fair (The Law Society) – 27 November

Friday Rundown

A rundown of this week’s top news stories.

  1. Boris Johnson seeking legal advice for secret plan to shut down Parliament and force Brexit through [via Politics Home]
  2. Pound falls as Queen asked to suspend Parliament [via BBC News]
  3. Clyde & Co Edinburgh team moves to Scottish firm [via The Law Society Gazette]
  4. Ex-Google and Uber engineer charged with theft [via BBC News]
  5. Asylum case rejected by controversial judge Sandy Street will be reheard [via The Guardian]
  6. Public sector to launch ‘mass legal battle’ over pension reforms [via The Guardian]
  7. 90% of firms pessimistic about criminal sector’s future [via The Law Society Gazette]
  8. G7 leaders told to scrap discriminatory gender laws from statute books [via The Guardian]
  9. Rejection of international law on the rise, Iran’s foreign minister says [via Reuters]
  10. Bumper retention rates point to City optimism [via The Law Society Gazette]
  11. Law firms owed tens of thousands await news of Bolton sale [via The Law Society Gazette]

Bird & Bird and Clyde & Co boost NQ salaries

Salaries for newly-qualified (NQ) solicitors at Bird & Bird have increased by 15%. The firm is offering associates £71,000 a year, £9,000 more than the previous rate of £62,000.

First year trainees at the international law firm have also received a £2,000 salary bump to £40,000, whilst those in year two will earn £44,000, up from £42,000.

Meanwhile, Clyde & Co confirmed an 8% pay increase for its NQs. Associates at the firm will now receive a salary of £70,000 – an impressive £5,000 increase. There have also been hikes to trainee pay to £40,000 in year one and £42,000 in year two.

Clyde & Co also announced an 86% autumn retention rate, with 37 of 42 trainees staying on at the firm including 33 qualifying into the London office. Qualifiers will join the corporate, marine, aviation, employment, planning, real estate, international arbitration and energy practices.