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When you work in-house, you’re no longer just a lawyer, you’re a business advisor balancing the commercial needs of the business with providing sound legal advice.
What skills do you need to do this and to develop people’s trust in your judgement? Sophie Gould talks to Swati Paul, General Counsel at London Luton Airport, about how in-house lawyers can make their mark in the business and how they are disrupting the profession.
Tell us about your background and career to date …
I trained in a large commercial firm in London. I then spent the first part of my career working on international projects for large City law firms, which was very exciting. However, once I had a family I found that the travelling and the hours, increasingly difficult to manage.
I knew then that I had to do something different. I did a contract in the government sector and then became sole counsel of a manufacturing company for two years. I then moved to another company where I worked in a large in-house legal team of about 100 lawyers for seven years. The career structure was flat and my boss had been there for many years so there really wasn’t anywhere to progress. The only way forward, was to move and that’s when I joined London Luton Airport. I’ve been GC here for more than three years now. I worked on my own for two years but now there’s two of us in the team, plus a stable of outsourced advisors.
In my second year, I was appointed to the board, not as a director, but in my own capacity as general counsel. A year later, I was appointed to the senior management team, which reports directly to the CEO.
Which areas do you and your team currently cover?
The team is responsible for all the legal work in the airport which covers the whole spectrum. This includes: commercial law, corporate governance,
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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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