At Crafty Counsel, we regularly focus on getting to know more about members of our in-house legal community. This week, we spoke with Alex White, legal counsel at specialist mortgage lender Vida Homeloans and member of Crafty Starters, our group for in-house legal professionals under four years’ qualified.
[Did you know we have different groups within our Community for in-house legal professionals which have regularly scheduled virtual meet-ups and in-person events? Learn more about the Crafty Counsel Community.]
An in-house lawyer through and through
After studying European law with German law at university and briefly exploring studies in Berlin, Alex earned his degree. However, he discovered that the legal profession wasn’t where he saw himself. The experiences of dinners, parties, and events had led him to see lawyers as less vibrant than he’d hoped. So he started out his career as a management consultant at Accenture, and even though he enjoyed it, he found himself “pigeonholed” more and more into legal work, doing third-party supplier work and subcontracting. So he decided to do his LPC, and eventually ended up as a litigation paralegal at a regional South West firm, where he got to do a variety of litigation focused legal work including defamation, contractual and land disputes.
Alex knew he did not want to be a corporate, private practice lawyer, so he stayed on the lookout for an in-house training contract. He landed it at a Maidenhead-based telecoms company, and recently moved into the “mortgage game”, a few months into his qualification. He is part of a five-lawyer team.
Alex says that one of the most rewarding parts of the way he became a lawyer — even though he didn’t initially want to be one — is how, as a fully in-house-made counsel, he became used to dealing with very senior people and various complex challenges as a very junior lawyer.
“If you work in corporate firms, quite often as a junior lawyer you’re locked in the basement with all the dusty paperwork and you’re not allowed to actually see the clients” Alex says.
“When you’re in-house, one of the most exciting things, even though it can also be a challenge, is “at a very, very junior level having to deal with very, very senior people early on”.
Favourite part of your current role?
“Spinning the plates”, Alex says. He enjoys the enormous amount of variety of work there is in his role, which can see him giving legal advice, onboarding suppliers, updating terms and conditions or terms of business for his company’s mortgage packages. “There’s always something a little bit different going on”.
Alex also enjoys the novelty of certain issues that come up in his business, and having a problem that he doesn’t know the answer to. He likes going back to case law and legislation and writing what he has learned into concise and useful notes that could serve as solutions for his company. Business problems “make you go away and think about them, they make you come back with advice, but you have to make sure it’s commercially relevant and the business is going to understand it, want to hear it and can act on it”.
A special hobby?
Besides being an in-house lawyer, Alex could also help you with your backhand: he is a tennis coach, having started his qualifications in 2018 and rising to head coach at a couple of tennis clubs in Devon. He says he plays sports most weekends and he has also kept coaching tennis from time to time.
Unlike many of our members, you won’t find Alex on LinkedIn, on Facebook or any other social platforms. He left all social media in 2020: “Lawyers spend a lot of time looking at things on a screen. The last thing I want to do is spend my afternoons and evenings and weekends looking at social media on screens”.
Coolest thing in legal right now?
Even though he didn’t quite click with the social media parts of the internet, like many Crafty Counsel members, Alex finds the intertwining of artificial intelligence with the legal world the coolest thing in legal right now.
He recently went to an event for in-house lawyers, where one presenter showered the audience with examples of how “wonderful” AI is. The presenter managed to create a band using it. He had made his own music, created his own label with his own songs, and he showed the audience how it was all done via AI: it was “absolutely life-transforming”. The presenter then went through another presentation about how AI would change the legal field and make in-house lives easier through automating contracts, for example.
“What blew my mind is that at the end of the presentation, the presenter said: this entire presentation was made by an AI and I did nothing at all to prepare for this. That blew my mind. Not only was it the pitch, but the entire thing was created by AI. It was fabulous”.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Having seen what they can do, Alex would advise his younger self to go and learn about computers. He would tell his younger self to skip university altogether and learn how to code instead. “The machines are coming, right? And they’re going to control everything, and the people who control the machines are going to have the good jobs, ultimately. So I would say: you want to be someone that’s controlling the machines”.
He says that he sees a not-too-distant world where the junior jobs will be coded-away and paralegals and junior lawyers may not be needed anymore because the grunt legal work will be done by artificial intelligence and will merely need to be checked by senior lawyers… “Or just be a footballer!,” Alex says, remembering his brief experience as a goalkeeper.