Head of legal and regulations, Gazprom Energy, Manchester
I completed my law degree at Leeds University from 2001 to 2004, and during that time I also undertook some legal placements. This gave me a flavour of how I could develop my career. Upon graduation, I went on to complete my legal practice course at Chester College of Law and my training contract at Addleshaw Goddard, where I qualified as a solicitor in 2007.
While my law degree was intellectually stimulating, I do not think it necessarily prepared me for the practical reality of applying the law. My training contract was definitely more valuable. Undertaking client secondments at different businesses gave me a real insight into how in-house lawyers can help to drive business success. I decided to move in-house and joined the legal team at Gazprom Energy in 2011.
When I joined Gazprom Energy the legal team had only recently been created. One of the biggest challenges therefore was getting the business to understand what an in-house legal team could do. Now we deal with pretty much every area of the business and are often called upon to provide advice, or ‘sense-check’ ideas at their inception. In this way we are fully involved in helping to shape the direction of the company.
As with many other legal departments, we have a constant challenge to continually add value while reducing costs (or at least without adding costs). We have therefore been focused on making our processes simpler by using technology as much as possible, and educating colleagues so that they have a greater understanding of some basic legal processes and queries. Over time, this is helping to reduce the volume of basic tasks referred to the legal team, freeing us up to work on more strategic activities which have greater commercial benefit.
One fantastic career highlight was when my team was ranked highest in peer-to-peer feedback surveys across the business. The fact that our colleagues recognise the value that we bring to their activities is incredibly fulfilling.
I love the fact that I can really get to grips with the business, applying my legal knowledge and experience in a practical way to help make decisions and get things done, rather than providing advice from the sidelines.
I think the idea that lawyers offer something ‘special’ is being eroded through the implementation of technology. However, that presents a great opportunity for forward-thinking lawyers to adapt their practices and broaden their output.