Dunelm Head of Legal, Emily Ashton
Dunelm’s Head of Legal, Emily Ashton, who joined the company in 2022 as Senior Legal Counsel, shares her thoughts and experiences so far on working as an in-house lawyer for the highly successful FTSE 250 homeware retailer. Emily will be part of Dunelm’s interview panel meeting lawyers looking to join Dunelm’s in-house legal team – in Leicester in a hybrid-working generalist role.
If you’re interested in working in retail and specifically for Dunelm, please see the link at the foot of the article, and then reach out to Andy Balmer here.
Our interview with Emily, which originally appeared in Florit Legal’s In-house Legal Journeys® series in 2022, has been reposted to coincide with her recent promotion to Head of Legal.
Tell us a little more about Dunelm and what attracted you to join.
Dunelm is a market leading homeware retailer with over 177 stores nationwide and strong digital presence. The product offering covers textiles, bedding, kitchenwear, furniture, décor, home fragrance, seasonal products and much more.
Having worked in retail for the majority of my in-house career, I wanted to stay in this sector and Dunelm is such a well-recognised and much loved brand in that space. I felt I’d fit in in the small Legal Team facing similar opportunities and challenges in a growing business.
It worked for my home life too being a close commute, offering me hybrid working and welcoming a 4-day work week – which showed they really do support a work life balance.
Why is it a good place to work, would you say?
Dunelm has ambitious growth plans and is putting sustainability at the heart of that growth with exciting ideas – for example, to create a more circular product lifecycle.
Everyone you come into contact with is enthusiastic about what they do and more than happy to help people who are new to the business.
There is a focus on colleague well-being and a lot of support to grow and develop. The office has a light, open plan feel with a Pausa café for a lovely lunch or tea break.
What growth opportunities have come your way so far?
I’ve already had the opportunity to learn about a new area of work, in relation to finance. At Dunelm, if you’re prepared to get stuck in then you can take ownership and develop your role.
This particular project has given me the opportunity to work in a cross functional team and understand more about how the different areas of the business work together.
What are the key issues facing retailers today and what has your experience been of those so far?
The cost of living crisis is clearly at the forefront for all retailers.
Dunelm’s values include putting the customer first and offering great value, every day. From my perspective I can see how this can help our customers during a very challenging time.
Why might now be a good time to join the legal team?
Dunelm is growing and has exciting plans for the future. I expected the department to evolve over the short term, so there is now another opportunity to shape how we work and continue to support the business.
Having read what the former Company Secretary, Dawn Durrant had to say about Dunelm in your IHLJ blog in 2021, when I you approached me about the role, I can certainly vouch for the fact that the size of our team (still being quite small) offers true breadth for someone looking to be a generalist – giving huge opportunity for personal development as the business continues to grow.
What practical advice would you give to someone in practice looking to move in-house?
Speak to people in the role to see if it’s for you. Be prepared for less structure and a different, less rigid career path from private practice.
You need broader knowledge of numerous areas of law so being an expert in one area is not what it’s about. But if you want a broad, varied and commercial role with arguably a better work life balance where you’re integral to a business, then in-house is the perfect fit.
What would you say makes a good in-house lawyer?
Approachability, adaptability, attention to detail!
How is wellbeing supported?
I find people always have time for a chat and to bounce ideas and problems off other people, which really helps.
There is no expectation to work really long hours here, in fact it’s discouraged, and when we are in the office we always take time for lunch together.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
I enjoy DIY and home improvement. So working for Dunelm has helped with that!
My family keeps me busy, but I try to make time for walking, reading and spending time with friends too.
What was your very first job?
Sat Bains in Nottingham for an extra special occasion.
What would you say is your guilty pleasure?
Percy Pigs (or any sweets really), I can’t not eat the whole bag.
Click here, for further details on the opportunity with Dunelm.
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