How to build a strong relationship with your business – an interview with Clare Woolley

How to build a strong relationship with your business – an interview with Clare Woolley

Build a strong relationship between the in-house legal team and the businessLawyers can have a reputation for being overly risk-averse. Building good relationships with business colleagues to gain respect is core to overcoming this perception. Sophie Gould talks to Clare Woolley, Head of Legal at RAC, about how she sold the value of her team to the business and established a relationship that recognised the contribution lawyers make in a commercial environment.


Tell us a bit about your background and career to date …

I started off my career in private practice after qualifying into a commercial contracts role. I did a whole range of project work and large commercial contracts across the public and private sector and got a broad range of experience working for high profile clients.

At 6 years’ PQE, I’d been on secondments with companies and was getting to the stage where I felt frustrated in private practice. What I’d really enjoyed about my secondments was getting under the skin of commercial deals. In private practice, you don’t see how a project comes into being or the commercial drivers, and you don’t see what happens to it afterwards. It felt like the right time to make a move in-house. I joined RAC in 2012.

How is the RAC legal team structured?

The team operates with a relatively flat structure. The team consists of  eight lawyers, a contracts manager and PA. Whilst we have broad areas that we tend to focus on, we all do work across the business. If a person only deals with one area it can lead to tunnel vision and they won’t see the impact of one division's actions on other divisions. A key way that we add value to the business is to make sure that where there are synergies or potential conflicts, we’re identifying those and bringing them together.

Each person in the team has a direct relationship with a director on the board and this gives them visibility at board level. Not only is this visibility important for career progression, but it gives a sense of ownership of an area. Ultimately, they are the point of contact if there are any issues that need escalating. They have a monthly one-to-one with the director and are responsible for that overall relationship. It gives an invaluable insight into what makes directors tick as well as what’s actually happening on directors&rs

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About the author:
Sophie Gould is the Head of Lexis®PSL In-house. Sophie worked as an in-house lawyer for 10 years including seven years as Head of Legal for Virgin Radio and Ginger Media Group. She has also run a legal risk and compliance training business.


Since joining LexisNexis in 2009 Sophie has worked on developing our legal and business content for the in-house legal community.  She also runs various networking and mentoring groups for in-house lawyers and works with schools to promote social mobility within the legal profession.