Ex-City lawyer goes underground
We have spoken to self-employed lawyers for the last few weeks, so thought it was time to return to an in-house interview – the stalwart of legal options. Jude Mladek worked in the project finance department at Addleshaw Goddard for five years before deciding to go in-house to London Underground Ltd. She is pleased with her move and told us why she has found going in-house to be the right option for her.
mtl: Hi Jude, tell us about working at Addleshaw Goddard.
Jude: I moved to Addleshaw Goddard on qualification because I wanted to do project finance and it had a new, fledgling department which I joined.
The firm that I trained at didn’t do this type of work, though I did get a good grounding in construction as a trainee. I worked on a large variety of infrastructure projects including schools, hospitals and motorways. My clients were a mixture of banks, construction contractors and local authorities. I enjoyed the work and was happy there.
mtl: So why the change?
Jude: Probably the same reasons as for many others who go in-house. I wanted more commercial experience, I didn’t want partnership and I wanted a better work-life balance. I frequently worked late and sometimes at the weekends and I wanted shorter working hours. Given that I was in a transactional department, it wouldn’t have been feasible to ask for a more flexible working arrangement. I felt that as I didn’t want the pressure and inevitably long hours of being a partner, going in-house would be the best long-term option for me. The work was never an issue as I liked what I did – I just wanted less of it!
mtl: What’s it like being an in-house lawyer at London Underground?
Jude: It is exactly what I wanted and I am really enjoying it. It was the first interview that I went to, I was offered the role quickly and I didn’t look anywhere else. I work in a large in-house team of about 40 people and we work on major infrastructure projects. Most of my colleagues have worked in the City and the standard of work in the team is very high. Everyone really operates together as a team and there is a good atmosphere.
I expected working closer to the actual projects that I was involved in to be more interesting and I have found that to be the case. I spend half of my week in one of the operational teams, giving immediate, practical advice. I therefore feel much more part of the delivery team than I did in private practice.
The quality of the work is really excellent. I feel that I have learnt more in the last six months than I did in the previous year at Addleshaw Goddard. This is partly because there is a steep learning curve going in-house and you have to raise your game, but also because there is less supervision and you are expected to get on with things yourself more.
We have busy periods, for example before Christmas, but generally we work an eight hour day and the holiday entitlement is generous. There are also some good perks too, for example free tube travel for staff and their partners. It is generally much more possible to plan your time and manage other people’s expectations than in private practice.
At the moment I am working on a new contract to upgrade the power on the Metropolitan, Circle and District lines and we are in negotiations with bidders. I am also varying a PFI contract to upgrade the power on the Victoria line and drafting a contract for a new bulk supply point which will provide electricity to the Victoria line.
mtl: So have you encountered any down-sides to your new role?
Jude: I found that I was expected to be a commercial adviser as well as a legal adviser, which was hard at first, but ultimately something that I was interested in. You have to quickly learn to understand what people are look for in your advice and how to give it.
You are also expected to manage your own transactions, whereas in private practice there is a partner who is supervising you and who is responsible for client care and the final product. Having said that, I think this means that you develop your skills and learn more quickly because of the additional responsibility. I wouldn’t go back to private practice, though I am sure it would be possible if I wanted to.
mtl: What would you suggest thinking about before taking an in-house role?
Jude: I would suggest going to a large team for your first in-house job. There are lots of jobs available for sole legal counsel or as one of two legal advisers, but I would recommend going somewhere more supportive while you find your feet.
If you can do a secondment while in private practice, it would show you whether you like it and whether you would want to make that move. It would also make the transition easier. The salaries are lower than in private practice, but per hour you are probably paid more, and you should look at the whole package on offer rather than the headline figure.
Whatever level you are, I would also suggest speaking to an in-house careers consultant. They can show you what type of roles are available and what experience you will need for them. You can then steer your experience in private practice to make sure that you are doing the right sort of work.
There is some traditional snobbery about in-house lawyers not being up to scratch, but I have found that the quality is impressive. Perhaps if you asked to meet the whole team before agreeing to take a job you could find out more about what they do and what they are like. I am planning to stay as an in-house lawyer from now on… I think it is a great option to consider and lawyers should think about it more than they do.
mtl: Thanks Jude and we hope you continue to enjoy being an in-house lawyer.
Law, University of East Anglia
LPC, College of Law, York
Training contract at Glovers
Assistant, project finance, Addleshaw Goddard
Moved in-house to London Underground Ltd.