Empowering the in-house legal team – an interview with Maaike de Bie, General Counsel, Royal Mail

Empowering the in-house legal team – an interview with Maaike de Bie, General Counsel, Royal Mail

When Maaike de Bie joined Royal Mail as Group General Counsel, many people in the business didn’t understand what the legal team was there for. How can you transform a team from an overworked, undervalued advisory function into an invaluable contributor to the business? Sophie Gould talks to Maaike de Bie about how she empowered the legal team and shaped its role as a strategic business partner, resulting in it winning the Legal Department of the Year (Commerce and Industry) at the British Legal Awards 2017.

Tell us a little bit about your background …

I grew up in The Netherlands in the middle of nowhere and it was never in my line of sight to become a lawyer, I probably didn’t even know what a lawyer was. After secondary school, I took a year out and went to Montreal where I worked in hotels to see whether I would enjoy a career in hospitality.

While I was there I met a lot of people who had defected from the former USSR.  They had ended up in menial jobs but were unbelievably educated (vets, lawyers, accountants, teachers etc).  Although they may have spoken a number of languages, because their English was poor they were treated as if they were dumb.  The way they were treated surprised me and I wanted to help and protect them. I have always been someone who protected the underdog, or the kid that got bullied at school. So this got me thinking about starting a career where I could be doing what’s right by people, and that was the driver that led me to go to law school.

I started out studying law in Amsterdam but as I was interested in international law and being a global citizen I also went to McGill University in Montreal.  I took the New York Bar as that was the most international bar and joined  White & Case in

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About the author:

Sophie is Head of Learning & Development at F-LEX Legal - an award winning legal tech startup helping law firms and organisations manage a flexible work force and supporting lawyers to make smarter life/work choices. 

As part of her portfolio career Sophie runs various learning and development and networking forums for in-house lawyers and mentors junior lawyers.  These include Flying Solo for small and solo legal teams and Aspire for junior in-house lawyers which she runs for LexisNexis UK.  She also works with schools and organisations to promote social mobility within the legal profession, working with The Social Mobility Business Partnership and Aspiring Solicitors. 

She trained as a lawyer in the City and worked as an in-house lawyer for 10 years including as Head of Legal for Virgin Radio and Ginger Media Group.  

Outside of work she is happily married with three sons and enjoys morning walks along the beach with her two dogs.