GC Spotlight: Nicola Raj, General Counsel at Ebiquity.

1. Hi Nicola! Tell us a little about yourself. What do you enjoy doing outside of work? 

I’ve been a lawyer for over 20 years (where does the time go?!). I spent the majority of my career as an employment lawyer, but around 5 years ago I moved into a more generalist role with broader responsibility. I love the variety of my current role.  

Pre-pandemic, I loved to travel to other countries and experience different cultures. Lockdown has given me a renewed appreciation of what we have right here in the UK, although the unpredictable weather can be a bit of a drawback! I never tire of things to do in my hometown of London, either. A healthy dose of friends & family, good food & drink, yoga & laughter (although not necessarily at the same time) kept me sane during lockdown. 

2. What does your typical day at work look like? What does it mean for you to be a modern GC?

I think it is fair to say no 2 days are ever the same. We are a lean legal team, and in a global role there will often be challenges in unfamiliar jurisdictions. Using your judgment and applying a common-sense approach is vital.

There is often much discussion about the need for lawyers to be commercial. That’s absolutely true, but we also need to balance that with protecting the business and maintaining our professional integrity. It is key for our non-legal colleagues to recognise when to seek our advice, and also to trust it. 

As GC, it is my duty to make sure that we work cohesively as a team, and that workloads are fairly distributed. Ensuring personal development goals are in place, and creating external visibility for team members is also important for morale. Perhaps the most crucial thing is to create an environment where the team feels supported. Creating a culture of fear helps no-one, and I would always rather know about any issues before they escalate.

3. What have been your biggest challenges during the pandemic?

It is important to recognise the impact of lockdown on individuals. We are not machines, and there are times when it was a struggle for everyone, but I think a mixture of empathy and keeping a sense of humour helps.  

Having started my role in lockdown, for me the challenge was getting to know the business remotely. You can’t be too proud to ask basic questions about the business, as you can’t do your job properly without really getting under the bonnet. 

As we provide a service rather than a product, human interaction is vital. This means that the business had to pivot in certain areas, but everyone seems to have adapted really well. The new challenge is what comes next.

4. What are your key priorities for the next year?

Continuing to build on optimising the way we work and creating clarity over where legal input is required. We are reviewing certain repetitive processes, so that we can focus on more high-level, strategic business requirements. The way we use external advisers is also something we are constantly reviewing.

5. What do you think about the use of LegalTech, data analytics and process optimisation to improve your legal department's value (e.g. data relating to contracts, risk, tracking workflows, performance metrics, outside counsel costs, etc)?

Data and analytics is the backbone of our company, so it makes sense for us to consider ways to use it in the legal context. This is something we’re actively reviewing at the moment, but it needs to be done sensitively, and recognising the different jurisdictional and business needs.

6. What developments or trends do you expect to see in the legal services industry in the next 3-5 years? 

I think it is fair to say that legal services have been relatively slow to adopt technology, but we seem to finally be embracing it, which is great. Automation shouldn’t be seen as frightening, as it frees up lawyers to focus on more strategic, high-level work. Striking the balance is key, though, and I think most of us still have a way to go on this front.