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GC NextGen: a network for you?

17 September 18

Having a well-established group of peers to share knowledge and best practice can be invaluable for in-house lawyers at any level, and GC NextGen provides such a forum

by Aisling McMullan

You’ve been actively involved in GC NextGen for some time now. Tell us more.

The group was established by Stephen Taylor (legal counsel at A G Barr plc) in 2014 with a number of objectives, including building relationships with other in-house legal teams and providing a forum to share knowledge and experience, best practice, discuss topical issues and allow members to build the knowledge, skills and experience necessary to progress in their career.

The group has grown, largely through word of mouth, over the last few years to around 50 members at various stages of their in-house career (generally not quite at the head of legal/general counsel point), and includes lawyers working in a diverse range of industries from food and drink to financial services.

We generally try to hold three or four events a year. Given that members are based in and around Glasgow and Edinburgh, we try to alternate where events are held to allow as many people as possible to attend. Members of the group offer to host, either running something internally or facilitating a session through one of their external panel firms. Our meetings usually cover some kind of topical issue, for example GDPR in the run-up to its implementation, and also include time to socialise with other group members afterwards.

Our next event is being hosted by William Grant & Sons, who have arranged an external speaker, Professor Burkhard Schafer, Professor of Computational Legal Theory, University of Edinburgh, and is interestingly named “Law, Cheese, Artificial Intelligence and Neuroscience”, with a social event afterwards.

The group has also expanded to cover various working groups, such as in relation to the protection of trade secrets. 

With such a diverse membership, how do you cater for everyone’s different interests?

We do cover a broad range of topics which, despite group members coming from different industries, affect us all. GDPR, Brexit, anti-bribery and corruption for example are all topics that will come into play irrespective of the industry in which you work. Our last event focused on how in-house legal teams can add value to their business and how in-house lawyers can make the transition from legal to more commercial roles – again, a topic that applied to all.

You recently took over the reins in coordinating the group. What do you see as the main priorities for GC NextGen in the near future?

For me, technical ability is sometimes taken as a given and soft skills are a huge part of what makes a good in-house lawyer and allows career progression. In addition to covering more “hard law” topics impacting the group members, I’m keen to start focusing our events on topics such as political and emotional intelligence, influencing and negotiation skills, business partnering and building your profile.

What are your members talking about in 2018? What are the key challenges for in-house legal teams this year?

This tends to be fairly topical – GDPR, Brexit, artificial intelligence, in-house legal teams doing more with less and how technology can aid with efficiencies.

I think for some members and industries in particular, Brexit and the implications here may have more focus and prominence in the coming months.

What are the benefits to in-house lawyers of joining a group like this?

Wide and varied! It provides a valuable opportunity to connect with other in-house lawyers facing the same issues and challenges as you may be, share best practice and understand the approaches other teams and industries are taking to issues, and to learn from the experience of others. It expands your network, allows you to get valuable black letter law updates and to expand your softer skills, hopefully helping with career progression. For those in smaller in-house teams or sole legal counsel in particular, it’s good to know that you’re not alone and have a broad and varied group to draw on.

Sounds compelling! How can we encourage others to get involved or set up their own networks?

If there are any in-house lawyers interested in joining GC NextGen they can get in touch with me by email

Conscious that our events are mostly based in and around Glasgow and Edinburgh, if there are others who are further afield or would rather set up their own networking group, I’d encourage them to go for it.  I’m happy to be contacted if anyone needs help with this and I know the Law Society of Scotland (in particular Beth Anderson, head of in-house engagement: bethanderson@lawscot.org.uk) would also be more than happy to provide a helping hand.

Aisling McMullan is senior legal counsel with Hymans Robertson LLP

 

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