Interview with James Ward
Why did you choose to pursue a career in law?
After A-Levels, I wanted to study a completely different subject at university, so I chose law and loved it. At one of the first lectures, we were told that reading law will change the way you think about everything for ever and I have found it to be true. After my degree, I wanted to continue with law and so I enrolled on the legal practice course. I enjoyed the practical side of a legal career. During this time, I also had some work experience within some small law firms which was very interesting. I knew straight away that this was the career for me.
Tell us about the work you do with BT.
I am a senior employment lawyer within BT’s legal team. BT is a great place to work. Due to the size of the organisation, my work is varied and diverse. No day is ever the same. My week often includes attending an Employment Tribunal hearing, delivering a presentation, speaking with colleagues across the world, interviewing witnesses and advising HR in relation to a broad range of people issues.
More recently, we have embarked on an exciting project. We have obtained an alternative business structure (ABS) licence from the SRA and we now take on external legal work through BT Law Limited. In effect, we have set up our own law firm with the benefit of our knowledge and expertise of working within a global company. We find that external clients find this attractive because they have the benefit of legal advice from a pragmatic and commercial perspective.
From your Linkedin profile we can see that you haven’t always worked In-house, what made you move from Private Practice to In-house?
When I worked in private practice, one aspect of my job which I particularly enjoyed was learning about the client. The opportunity to join BT’s legal team appealed to me because it meant that I would be getting to know the client and be within the business at the same time as advising it. In effect, a business partner as well as a lawyer.
What would you say are the main differences between working PP and In-house?
The relationship with the client through style of advice which you give. When in-house, you are able to be more pragmatic with your legal advice. We know and understand the business and with that in mind, we tailor the advice and follow issues through to a solution which works. Written advice is shorter, in plain English and guides the business on the options. We avoid sitting on the fence.
What would your advice be to someone who is thinking about moving In-house?
Do it! Even if it doesn’t work out, it will be great work experience and make your CV stand out for your future career.
What are the biggest challenges that you face working as an In-house Solicitor?
You face the same challenges which the business face. So it depends where you work I expect. I think change is a significant challenge.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Following legal proceedings through from start to finish. At BT we are encouraged to conduct our own advocacy. We find that the client appreciates this approach because it gives them consistent representation throughout the proceedings as well as saving the cost of instructing Counsel. We also take this approach for the external clients of BT Law Limited.
When you’re not working as an In-house Solicitor, what do you do outside of work to relax?
I enjoy travelling, visiting different places and spending time with my family.
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