This short Q&A was featured in our summer 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 Rosie Teo, General Counsel of Salary Finance.
Q1: What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and how did you overcome them?
Running complex and time-pressured corporate transactions, whilst building my team and ensuring Business As Usual legal was effectively managed.
It wouldn’t have been possible to do this without having built strong connections with the rest of the Leadership Team. They trusted my judgement and we prioritised together. I also felt like they had my back from both a work and personal perspective.
I also had to make quick and decisive decisions when it came to hiring – trust your intuition and look for potential growth-mindset and drive over the number of years of experience.
I set “building a scalable and sustainable legal team” as one of my team’s main objectives. This meant that we spent the time improving processes to manage workflows and help the business teams self-serve. We also consolidated know-how and precedents. The team can have holidays without being interrupted!
Q2: What’s the most helpful piece of advice you have received as a GC?
The important thing is to get under the hood of your business and really understand it, and you can only do that by working with, and being helpful to, all teams in the business (from customer services to product teams).
Some days, it won’t even feel like you’re a lawyer, but as a lawyer, you will probably be great at identifying legal and non-legal problems and working out practical solutions. You can use that to be helpful to your colleagues far beyond just dispensing legal advice.
For me, for example, I made sure I worked in partnership with the product team so that together we could design products that had our customers’ best interests at their heart. We were therefore simultaneously meeting our regulatory and legal duties, as well as building great products, and the product team never saw me as “red tape”.
Q3: How do you see the role of the in-house lawyer evolving with the ever increasing use of legal technology and process management tools?
Legal can’t be a blackhole anymore. It’s important to have KPIs and track against those – for example, turnaround times on contract reviews. Process management tools should help with that. If I’m making a case to hire, I expect to be challenged on where, specifically, the hold-ups are in the contract review process or resolving legal queries.
Q4: What attracted you to the fast growth FinTech ecosystem?
I had worked in private practice for some years, but really wanted to use my skills for something I truly believed in. I was attracted to Salary Finance because of its social purpose – to improve the financial wellbeing of millions of employees through technology and innovation. It’s fulfilling to use my legal skills for something that is improving peoples’ lives for the better.
Q5: What advice do you have for lawyers who want to succeed in this industry?
Trust yourself. It’s really easy to think that “that highly specialised lawyer” on the other side of the table will know more than you, but as the GC, you’re the only one who lives and breathes your company from a commercial, technical and legal perspective. It’s highly unlikely anyone will be more of an expert than you!
Also, grow your tribe. It’s really important to build your connections both internally and externally. Spend the time meeting different lawyers so you know who to call when the Board say “Go!” Also consider joining the Disruptive GC Network, to meet and learn from other GCs in fast growth disruptive companies.
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