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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.
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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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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