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GLD Deputy Director, Charles Reynard talks to us about his experiences as a lawyer in private practice, in industry and now in government.
Charles is currently a Deputy Director in the Commercial Law Group of the Government Legal Department, based in Wellington place, Leeds. Prior to joining the GLD, Charles was a corporate finance lawyer and partner – having started out in Leeds, had a 6 year spell in Hong Kong before returning to the UK to become a founding member of the Nabarros office in Sheffield. He subsequently had two spells in house; the first with Scottish Power and subsequently as GC to a private equity backed international chemicals group before returning to private practice with Eversheds Sutherland. There, he undertook a mixture of renewable energy projects and M&A work.
Our interview with Charles is the latest in Florit Legal’s In-house Legal Journeys® series.
The Government Legal Department is the principal internal legal resource available to the Government of the day.
The GLD comprises approximately 2400 people, at present, who fall into two primary roles being (i) Advisory Lawyers who advise on policy, policy implementation and related issues and (ii) Specialist Services comprising commercial, employment and litigation specialists.
The Commercial Law Group, in which I work, advises on all aspects of public procurement; contract management and delivery up to the point that anything becomes substantively litigious. We have been involved in any number of high profile projects including the Covid response itself including the sourcing of PPE and vaccines and assisting in the delivery of the Help to Grow scheme (aimed at SMEs). We also implement HMG policy via procurement activities such as the cross-HMG energy services; or, services in connection with the delivery of overseas aid, along with many other goods and services bought by the public sector.
We have lawyers embedded in departments in addition to those working out of GLD offices in London, Leeds, Bristol, Croydon and, in due course, Manchester.
My comments here come from my experiences in the Commercial Law Group but they apply equally to the wider GLD.
Depending on the individual, there will almost always be a time in one’s career when a role in the GLD will be a good fit for one’s values and aspirations.
In my case, I had enjoyed a demanding and interesting career in the private sector up until the time that I retired from Eversheds Sutherland. An opportunity to join GLD was a chance to undertake very interesting, topical work in a different and less competitive working environment – albeit no less demanding overall. In a small way it was also a way of giving something back. Now that I have been with the GLD for just over 3 years, I see many of those themes being raised by other recruits and they remain the reason why I am happy to develop the latter stages of my career at GLD.
As will be well understood, when in private practice there are the demands of billing targets and developing a sustainable following as well as management responsibilities, the more senior you become.
When working in-house, you may not have the billing targets or the client development pressures but the demand for commercially aware, accurate and robust advice to short timescales remains high.
Depending on where one is placed within the GLD, the pressures on our people can also be equally demanding whether due to a crisis (such as Covid), contract management issues or Ministerial requirements. The implications of the advice we give are often profound. Ministers (and circumstances) can require considered advice at short notice and, where required, we have to flex in order to deliver it.
The public sector also has a different take on the employment relationship. While some of this is emulated in the private sector (especially as regards remote working post Covid), the public sector provides greater flexibility; comprehensive training in all of the technical legal and soft skills that one will need to develop one’s career; and a very supportive and collaborative working environment. The absence of the profit driver does allow for a more holistic approach to be taken to the employment relationship whilst still providing the opportunity to deliver demanding and often cutting edge legal work. Nonetheless, the skills acquired from private practice are undoubtedly valuable. Recruits from private practice usually have sector and industry knowledge that is both relevant and constructive. In GLD, informed challenge is much welcomed.
Working in the GLD allows one to feed into and influence Government policy and the lawfulness of its implementation. We face a fascinating array of legal and delivery challenges that are both topical, immediate and have a beneficial effect on society as a whole. Regularly reading about work in which one has been directly involved can be quite a buzz! I can honestly say that the work that I have undertaken has been amongst the most interesting of my career.
As I mentioned earlier, there is a wealth of training available at the GLD which is seen as an investment in the role and the individual. Not only did I have to learn about the public procurement regime, I had to adopt a different and more transparent way of thinking that might, possibly, be the subject of public scrutiny. The induction that I had was comprehensive. In addition, I have been on senior management training with a number of other senior colleagues for which Permanent Secretaries and Directors General make the time to share the ups, downs and pitfalls of public service with genuine flair and, in some cases, some quite visceral experiences. Not only has this equipped me to fulfil my role (by, amongst other things, refining my approach in meeting the demands of senior colleagues and ministers), it has helped create a valuable cross government network which is no less useful. It has also helped me in bringing others on.
It will come as no surprise in this current market if I say resource!
The next challenge for us is the effective use of that legal resource across HMG in light of the high demand for legal support. This is especially the case in light of HMG’s recent announcements regarding the size of the Civil Service.
The third challenge that I would raise is that of external perception. As I have discovered, the stereotypical view of the Civil Service is far from the case in practice.
Yes; several – but the two principal ones are:
Keep things simple. If a proposal can’t be explained in a succinct fashion to an outsider, it probably has not been thought through adequately; and
Communication is key. People rather than technical or legal issues tend to be the problem. Listen carefully; seek to understand both what is being said and why and ensure that one’s own communications are short; crisp and clear. Always follow up, ideally by phone or in person, to ensure that your intended message has been received understood.
I read for relaxation. My most recent read was “Robert Galbraith’s” Cormoran Strike novel: Troubled Blood. Excellent pace and lots of detail. I also enjoy the books by Ken Follett and recommend the “Pillars of the Earth” trilogy.
The Hunt for Red October: Sean Connery at his non-007 best. A regular in our household so much so that we now know significant chunks of the dialogue off by heart. It’s getting on a bit now but still a very good watch
My camera: it does most of the work for me and flatters my ability.
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