In-House Lawyer Sheba Affridi is reaping the rewards from a career in the 3rd sector

Posted in Interviews on 13 May 2015

1. Tell us about Adactus Housing

We're a not for profit organisation that provides housing for those who otherwise couldn't afford to get onto the property ladder within the private rented sector. We own some 13000 properties. We employ around 650 staff members.  We not only source the land and develop and build our own properties, we find tenants and we provide them with a place to raise their children, build families and communities.                   

2. Tell us about your role as General Counsel

I started at Adactus in 2012 and was brought in to reduce legal spend and deliver value for money through the provision of legal services in house.  I advise on a wide range of areas from property, commercial, employment, litigation and securitisation and managing external legal suppliers while managing a team.  I’ll go through periods where I find myself advising on more commercial and strategy related matters rather than legal - and that’s a good thing because it means that we’re part of the fabric of the business and we add value in the same ways other departments do.   

3. What do you enjoy most about your job?

The variety of work that comes to me and no two days are the same. The ability to add value in a way I wasn’t able to in private practice.  I manage a new team and it’s very rewarding to see them learn and develop as the weeks and months go by.

4. What are the main challenges of your role?

To continually find ways to improve legal and business processes and to continue to add value. To continue to develop a strong team with a good understanding of the business and our role within it.

5. Why the law and why In House?

I always wanted to help people. I realised very early on that I didn't like blood so medicine was out of the question. Law seemed like a good idea at the time! I fell into in-house by accident rather than design and haven’t looked back since. 

6. Have you always worked in House? Where did you train and work before you joined Adactus in 2012?

This is my first in house move.  I trained at boutique law firm in Manchester who were  specialists in dealing with Housing Associations and related matters.  I then worked at a medium sized law firm in Yorkshire as a property litigator. I also had a brief fling with sales, selling forensic investigation services to the commercial sector.  I found I was more a lawyer than a saleswoman and I missed the challenge of legal work and having a caseload, so I pushed even harder for a career in law.

7. It must be very different to Private Practice working in a Non-Profit organisation - what are the key differences?

Yes it’s very different and I didn’t appreciate how much until I started at Adactus.

The key differences are that there is more regulatory scrutiny from not only the SRA but also our sector regulator, the Homes and Communities Agency.  At times it can be tricky to switch between your solicitor hat and your employee hat, whereas I never had to worry about that in private practice. The other differences that are just as true for an in house lawyer working in a private sector company and not simply for a NFP is that there is greater emphasis on work life balance and flexible working.

8. What is the best piece of advice you can give to an ambitious Solicitor at the start of their legal career?

Be open to all opportunities and experiences as no opportunity to learn is ever a waste of time.   Focus on anything work related that will enhance your experience and will stimulate your development and get better. Whether it’s connected to law or not as it all comes together in the end. 

Don't give up. There will be times throughout your career that you will ask yourself questions like was it really worth it, do I even like the law/this job. The advice that worked for me was do your best and learn the lessons that are there, whether it's technical knowledge or something more personal/subjective. When it's time to leave your job/the law, you will know.  If your aim is to work in house, work hard to become technically proficient in your subject as once you are in house you won’t be able to nip up the corridor to ask!

9. Who has been the biggest influence on your career and why?

My father, who always made time to listen to me (even now) and let me make my own mistakes.

10. So far what has been your career highlight?

Being privileged enough to do a job that I love, that gives me the freedom, flexibility and creativity to provide legal solutions within the company and drive efficiencies

11. What has been your greatest achievement so far in life?

Life is full of mini victories and there have been a few but my favourite is the birth of my Son. My second favourite is being able to do press ups.

12. Tell us about you - childhood, education, family and interests etc.

I'm one of 5 children and I’m blessed to have 4 younger brothers. Although as a girl growing up in a house of boys wasn't always fun but I learned to hold my own and climbed many trees. I didn't realise what a dress was until I got to university! I studied Law with IT at Leeds Metropolitan University and went on to study the LPC at Manchester Metropolitan University. I’m currently undertaking a post graduate diploma in Loan Documentation at Middlesex University. Outside of the office I enjoy travelling and playing the piano.

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