Law to Business… Yes You Can!
Paula Doyle, Legal Vice President at Globality, speaks about her transition from law to business and why women should consider the same career change.
Approaching my 20th year after qualifying as a lawyer, I asked myself “Is this it? Am I done with career changes and staying within my comfort zone?”
From a young age, my career had followed a windy path, from studying drama to working as assistant restaurant manager at London’s Hippodrome nightclub to a stint as a software engineer and, finally, qualifying as a UK solicitor in 1999, a very proud and emotional day for my parents who had almost given up on me!
Deciding to return to study law in 1993 at Kings College London was a big step. I left a solid job in software engineering and supported myself for the next four years by waiting tables and guiding tours. I never doubted that I would succeed, though. I had found my mojo. The law was for me. A successful legal career ensued. I was fortunate to work at the prestigious law firm Weil Gotshal before deciding to pursue a career in-house, first with a small software company and then with IBM for almost 13 years.
I began to question my future. Where could I add most value, the law or business?
As I grew in stature as a lawyer, my interest in business also blossomed. I was intrigued by the insights I gained from advising my clients. I relished learning about business and analysing the process of making key decisions. I often found myself second guessing senior business decisions and getting it right. I began finding it more difficult to “butt out” when I strongly felt that the business was travelling in the wrong direction. Since I hadn’t done an MBA, why did I feel could do better? I hadn’t worked in sales nor had to make tough time-constricted business decisions. I was a mere lawyer, supposed to advise my clients to be cautious, to manage and curtail risk, not to embrace it. Or was I?
Then, my “eureka” moment. Years of advising across different businesses had given me a breadth and depth that many of my clients lacked. I frequently had more end-to-end oversight of business deals, what worked, what didn’t etc. Why? I had stuck around. I was there at the beginning of a deal/ and at the end. I was still around when the cracks appeared, when those in other corporate jobs had moved on after their typical 3-year assignment. I could see where execution was sloppy, when judgement failed and leadership and vision faltered. I absorbed, learned and wondered—might I do better?
I began to reach out proactively to my senior business clients with ideas, earning a reputation for getting the deal done. I anticipated how changes in the law would affect business, and encouraged my clients to get ahead of the curve; they could use legal changes as opportunities to gain competitive advantage by offering solutions that allowed their customers to be compliant but still embrace innovation. I found ways to circumvent internal red tape to ensure my clients could move faster without compromising quality. In short, I was making a difference. My clients acknowledged it. I was both motivated and excited.
So, what about the twenty years I spent working as a lawyer. Does that now count for nothing?
I began to question my future. Where could I add most value, the law or business? Could I maybe do both? The in-house legal world is changing, and commercial acumen is becoming a prerequisite. Global GCs are being asked by their Boards and CEOs to manage risk. Did I want to now use my greater business skills to pursue new opportunities in the legal world? Or did I just want to escape?
The answer was close. Globality came along. The job description jumped off the page at me. I said to my husband “I love their vision. I can do this job”. The rest is history. I am grateful to find Globality at this pivotal time in my career. They demonstrated belief in me, allowing me to move directly into a business role while at the same time respecting what had gone before; they recognised that my legal knowledge and skills were an important attribute.
Globality is on a mission to solve a huge problem across global enterprises. In the digital age, processes for buying services are still stuck in the past. Artificial intelligence can transform the way companies choose and collaborate with service providers. Simultaneously, technology can build in process efficiencies, improve user experience, reduce times to market and realise costs savings. Globality’s platform does all this and more. It is the logical next step.
I am excited about this new challenge and chapter in my career. I love that every day is different and that I have the space to develop my ideas in an innovative forum. I have a voice and it is listened to. So, what about the twenty years I spent working as a lawyer. Does that now count for nothing? Hell no! It has shaped the bedrock of what I have become and adds an extra dimension to what I can and will still do. I couldn’t be more optimistic.