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From law student to General Counsel Sally-Ann James, General Counsel, Metro Bank PLC

19 March 2015 


Sally-Ann James

Last month we hosted Vernon Hill, Chairman and founder of Metro Bank PLC and their General Counsel Sally-Ann James at a special invite only talk at our Moorgate centre. Our students and staff heard first-hand about the business challenges of launching the first new bank to hit British high streets in more than 100 years.

Here, Sally-Ann who grew the in-house legal service at the bank, shares her top 10 tips on how a law student can stand out and succeed in the industry. 

1. Try to enjoy being a student – use the time you have, show some diversity. Good lawyers are not just lawyers, they see the bigger picture.

2. Work experience – get some. If you have prior experience working in a legal environment you will become useful more quickly.

3. What is your personal brand? Work it out, then work on it. Great brands create value for companies and that can be applied to individuals also. You can then align your brand to the company’s, so you can see whether and how you would fit. 

4. What is your differentiator? What would make someone choose you over every other law graduate? This does not need to be a long list of things, if you choose one thing, you can concentrate on it without any distraction. Then exploit your difference. That way the organisation knows exactly who you are, not just the lawyer.  

5. Find a mentor to help you – they will invariably have been there and done that. But don’t forget your colleagues and juniors, they will help you to get through the day and you can help them. 

6. Remember the customer – there is a customer at the end of everything you do in business, what does that customer need/want? Do you know? Have you bothered to ask? Do you know your business? Many in-house lawyers may be good lawyers, but they will never be great lawyers and integral to the business if they have never bothered to take the time to understand what drives the organisation.

7. Listen, learn, communicate – listen to your colleagues talk about the business. Identify what is important to your colleagues and the organisation, ask questions, talk to colleagues, and get involved. You cannot understand what a customer wants without listening to what is being said. Ask questions to the right people and even better, experience the customer experience.

8. Don’t forget, even if the customer knows what they want, think beyond that. I believe Henry Ford once said – ‘If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.’ Your understanding of the business, together with great teamwork, will enable you improve not just your own performance, but that of the organisation too.

9. Embrace the culture – if you have worked out and worked on your personal brand, you should be in an organisation that compliments your values, so embracing the culture and getting involved should be part of your day to day life. It is not a coat to put on and take off. Embracing the culture will help you become part of the fabric of the organisation; you will be noticed.

10. Effective execution – once you have done all the above you may think, well, now I can put my feet up and relax. Amateur mistake! You need to always look for new ways to enhance yourself and of course, your brand. 

Find out more about our postgraduate law courses.


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