Developing a confident and engaged legal team—an interview with Monica Risam

Developing a confident and engaged legal team—an interview with Monica Risam

Monica RisamShortlisted for In-house Lawyer of the Year at The Lawyer's 2016 awards, Monica Risam, GC & Company Secretary at Aviva UK Life, embodies the impact that strong leadership, drive and commitment to your team has on a business.  Sophie Gould talks to Monica about the importance of training and support in building a confident team, encouraging leadership and raising the profile of lawyers.

Tell us a bit about your background and career to date

I was in private practice for four and a half years before moving in-house. I spent seven years at GE Capital in various roles and then joined Aviva in 2011 as general counsel for Europe. Within a year of joining, the company was restructured and I became general counsel for Aviva Group.

In 2015, I became General Counsel and Company Secretary for Aviva UK Life which comprises 65% of the Aviva Group. It was a significant move for me and demanded a new skill set. I had just led the integration work stream for the legal function following a major acquisition. Suddenly I had a whole new team, including a lot of lawyers who had joined from the company we acquired.

When I started at Aviva there had never been a general counsel for Europe so my mission was to bring the function together and make sure we delivered for the business. When I took over, we weren't always getting the best value for the business. Panel review was a perfect example, with people only using law firms that they knew and not doing so in a joined up way. We consolidated the panel and this has generated several million pounds of savings by leveraging a smaller panel and making the most of those relationships.

I've got a great team that understands insurance and I've learned a lot. There are 60 or so people in my team. We have cells that are aligned to the business;

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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.