Posted 18.01.16 by prhcareers
“I previously wouldn’t get away with wearing jeans and suede winkle-pickers.”
Hello, Gulliver – so you’re a Commercial Lawyer – what does that mean?
Basically I’m a solicitor. As opposed to working in private practice at a law firm, I work in-house so I only have one “client” – Penguin Random House. I advise the business on legal risks; most notably the risks around entering into various types of commercial arrangements and/or contracts etc. Our department also provides a lot of guidance in connection with the risks associated with publishing certain books. By that I mean, whether any proposed comments or statements made by the authors in their books are potentially defamatory or in breach of privacy and might therefore attract claims against us.
We also provide advice in respect of the creation and protection of our own intellectual property such as copyright and trademarks as well as the necessary considerations of using that belonging to other people. We also work on a very wide variety of other issues such as data protection, regulatory compliance, company secretarial matters, corporate matters (buying or selling businesses and joint ventures etc.) and contentious/litigious matters. The legal department is a ‘support’ department so whilst on occasion we may have to say certain things aren’t going to be possible; we would always try and offer alternative solutions wherever possible.
Where were you before Penguin Random House?
I worked for an American ‘facilities management’ company, again, as an in-house lawyer. They were/are a company to whom private businesses, schools, government bodies and other public sector organisations etc. outsource things like catering, cleaning, security and gardening – basically all those ancillary things that those types of establishments need at their premises but which aren’t central to what they are actually trying to achieve.
What’s it like to be in the Legal team at Penguin Random House, especially compared to anywhere else you’ve worked?
The people who work here are very different. I previously worked in ‘suit’ environments with either other solicitors (back when I worked for law firms) or very sales/commission-focussed colleagues. There can often be a lot more bravado and egos in those types of places. That isn’t really a culture that exists too much at Penguin Random House. I previously wouldn’t get away with wearing jeans and suede winkle-pickers! It’s also good to be back in an office environment as I worked from home for my last year of employment in my previous company which meant I piled on the pounds.
What’s the culture like in your team?
It’s a really good team and everyone is very approachable and gets on well. We are given autonomy and trusted to get on with our individual pieces of work but have the support of our directors for the bigger matters as needed.
Best thing about your job?
As much as I like my team (!), I like getting to work with people who aren’t other lawyers, which I wouldn’t get to do so much if I was still in private practice. It’s a colourful and creative industry to be involved in and I like reading books before they come out – I’ve already read next year’s big seller. It’s a pretty relaxed environment (comparatively) – I rarely feel particularly stressed about my work and on the whole I am able to keep to fairly reasonable hours in comparison with working in private practice. That is something that is really important because one of the reasons I chose to move in-house was to have that ‘work/life’ balance, to be able to spend time with my kids, pursue hobbies and avoid that ‘being seen to still be in the office until all hours’ ethos that can still exist in more corporate or finance type business sectors and law firms.
Biggest challenge to your job?
Working with our Technology team can be challenging in terms of getting to grips with the terminology and understanding the various different systems in the business they are supporting. My knowledge of IT is a bit like Owen Wilson’s character in Zoolander – it’s not my forte, but I’m getting better.
All-time favourite book/story?
‘The Moon’s a Balloon’ by David Niven and ‘The Dirt’ by The Mötley Crüe – I mostly read non-fiction.
I eat a packet of chocolate buttons every day at 3pm – without fail. So sue me.