This short Q&A was featured in our December edition of the DisruptiveTech newsletter. If you would like to receive our newsletter regularly, please click here.
Kolvin Stone, partner and head of technology, Fox Williams, spoke with Sally Britten, Head of Legal at anti-money laundering technology company, Comply Advantage.
Q1. What advice would 2021 Sally give to 2016 Sally?
I would give her a little push to move outside of her comfort zone! I’ve done that a lot since then, and doing so reminds me that I enjoy my work best when I’m learning and finding my way through new problems.
Q2. What are biggest challenges you’ve faced and how did you overcome them?
Work wise, the biggest challenges tend to centre on a failure of communication. I think sometimes people assume the legal function consists of robots churning out contracts, or forcing rigid compliance. Picking up the phone and having a conversation really helps to put things on a human level and allows you to identify the real needs of the other person, and to demonstrate understanding and reason.
On a more personal level, coming back from maternity leave was a pretty big challenge, and one which I don’t think people often discuss. On the one hand, you might feel like a completely different person with a whole new perspective and value set; but on the other, you want to demonstrate that you are still just as capable and to ‘slot back in’. I felt more comfortable asking for help the second time around to get up to speed with developments in the business and industry, rather than trying to work it all out myself.
Q3. What’s the most helpful piece of advice you have received as a GC?
For me “done is better than perfect” has been a bit of a mantra since joining a scale-up. As a legal team, we are often creating new processes; I have to fight the urge to make things perfect, when sometimes just getting the first iteration is good enough and appropriate for the stage the company is at.
Q4. What keeps you up at night?
Definitely the length of my to do list! We’re a small legal team and the company is in a rapid growth phase; helping each part of the business meet their objectives and developing the legal function can be a huge juggling act. We can’t possibly keep everyone happy, and as a problem solver I find that quite hard to deal with.
There’s that and also trying to keep abreast of global privacy regulations – which is an area of law I really enjoy working in, but the pace of change is quite challenging!
Q5. How do you see the role of the in-house lawyer evolving with the ever increasing use of legal technology and process management tools?
The increasing use of legal technology frees up lawyers to spend more time on the work that really adds value – the tier one commercial deals, product developments and problem solving. In addition, legal tech has a big role to play in helping legal teams demonstrate their value by giving teams the data to measure success and progress.
By understanding which types of work are sucking up legal resource, or identifying sticking points like frequently negotiated clauses, you have the opportunity to make changes where they will have the greatest impact.
Q6. What attracted you to the fast growth FinTech ecosystem?
For me, it was the opportunity to work in a broader role – plenty of opportunity for learning and being outside my comfort zone! I’m not in any way technically savvy, but I do really enjoy learning how things work and the nuts and bolts behind the tech. I also enjoy the energy and creativity that I’ve found working in the FinTech/RegTech industries. Comply is full of really passionate people, and that creates a great atmosphere.
Q7. What advice do you have for lawyers who want to succeed in this industry?
Find your allies in each area of the business, as they will help you embed the legal function as a business partner.
Q8. How do you relax?
As a family, we like to get out for walks in the countryside or our local woods. It helps me breathe a little deeper and we’re all better people for it!
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