At Crafty Counsel, we regularly focus on getting to know more about members of our in-house legal community. This week, we spoke with Alicia Payne, Corporate Counsel International at Own company and member of High Growth, our community group for legal professionals working in venture-backed startups and scale-ups.

[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.]

Background and early career

Alicia’s journey began with a seemingly ordinary background. She attended state schools in her hometown of Seaford, East Sussex and then eventually pursued a law degree at Swansea. After completing her studies, she began her career with a training contract at Covington and Burling.

Alicia then transitioned to Tailor Vinters, where she thrived in the growth team, focusing on investment rounds and commercial advice for startups and high-growth companies. This experience offered her a broader perspective on the legal industry. Yet, recognising the need for a more dynamic and fulfilling career path, she quickly realised that private practice wasn’t going to be her long-term destination.

“I really enjoyed it, learned a lot, but knew that ultimately, private practice wasn’t where I wanted to stay.”

Venturing into in-house counsel at Vestd

The pivotal point in Alicia’s career came when she joined Vestd, an online equity management platform, as the 27th employee and the first in-house counsel. Tasked with establishing the legal framework from the ground up, Alicia faced challenges and embraced the autonomy that came with the role. She recounts the experience of justifying costs, relying on her network, and navigating the business side, all while setting up the legal infrastructure for a rapidly growing company.

“It was really great to have that network and to have made friends with so many of my colleagues in the past.”

Current role at Own

Alicia’s journey continued as she moved to Own, a US company with a London office, leaving behind her days as the sole counsel. As a team of two in London, she now focuses on commercial aspects rather than corporate matters. Managing contract negotiations, master subscription agreements, and collaborating with international teams, Alicia’s role at Own has offered her a great deal of independence

“There’s lots of autonomy as well, which is really nice. Me and my boss just sort of exist in our little London bubble.”

Negotiation triumphs and challenges

Alicia shares a recent negotiation triumph where she successfully closed a deal despite challenging opposing counsel. Sharing the importance of persistence, especially when faced with unfounded resistance she notes how such experiences contribute to the evolving landscape of legal interactions.

“After enough phone calls to kill a man, we finally got the deal done.”

Balancing act and hobbies

Venturing outside legal, Alicia is an avid marathon runner, recently completing her fourth marathon in New York. Her passion for running complements her love for baking, serving as a creative outlet that fuels her energy.

Additionally, Alicia has a strong interest in medical topics, stemming from her childhood dream of becoming a doctor, adding a unique dimension to her already varied range of hobbies.

“Other than lots and lots of running, I bake – it’s always nice to have an excuse to eat plenty of cake!”

Advice to her younger self

Highlighting the importance of continuous learning, Alicia’s advice to her younger self would be to recognise that she’ll never arrive at a place where she truly knows everything. She shares her aim to make do with what she already knows and to do so with confidence.

“I think there’s always a perception when you’re younger that you’ll hit a certain age and you’ll have everything figured out. But really, nobody knows what they’re doing; you just have to make do with it and trust that it will all work out in the end.”