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Shortlisted 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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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.
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