Serving on the board of a major company has opened Monica Burch's eyes to the wider world.
I am the Senior Partner of Addleshaw Goddard and also sit on the board of one of our public service broadcasters, Channel 4. Channel 4, which is wholly reliant on commercial funding, was born in 1982, and its public service remit is to be innovative, experimental and distinctive.
So what benefit does sitting on such a board give to a lawyer in private practice? Although I had sat on Addleshaw Goddard's board since 2004, when I assumed the Senior Partner role in 2010 I had little experience of chairing a board - seeing a commercial board in action and an experienced Chairman has been very helpful. Its also good to see how issues are dealt with - budgets, HR matters, projections, projects - all of the issues that businesses have in common - and to bring back different ways of doing things to Addleshaw Goddard.
But of course there is nothing inherently legal about that - save that it helps me certainly to understand how clients work, how important it is for heads of functions to get it right before the board, and how commercial decisions are taken and implemented. And creatives are a bit like law firm partners…
And its TV and a very glamorous thing TV is - great fun, there is real enjoyment from the role - and some pretty serious responsibilities and programming too. Also an industry which is regulated, and which is undergoing some fundamental changes in how it broadcasts, as digital convergence continues, and where, when and with whom people consume programmes (and how they talk - or tweet - about it afterwards). So some real parallels with legal services, in a rapidly changing environment, how we deliver our services, using what technology and which structures. TV is much further ahead than the legal industry in dealing with these challenges.
It is also a joy to work with very very talented people who happen not to be lawyers. I hasten to add that it is also a joy to work with very very talented people who are lawyers, and, but, there is a difference. I said earlier that creatives were a little like law firm partners - well there are some differences. There isn't a concentration on words, more on ideas. There are very few drafting discussions. And people know how to interact with each other, and do so well and with obvious enjoyment. Really, this inability is a lawyer thing. It's not by any means universal, but if you go to an event which comprises a room full of lawyers (my own firm excepted of course), some people honestly don't know how to hold a conversation without harrumphing, not looking you in the eye for the entire conversation, or just deciding not to talk.
I remember one lovely event at the US ambassadors house in Regent's Park, where there were some normal people (potential clients) in the mix as well, when a particular beetle browed lawyer came up to me, said hello, realised I was with a rival firm, muttered that I was of no use and walked off to the next name badge - how brilliant.
Love the law.