Every week at Crafty Counsel we get to know more about one of the members of our in-house legal community. This week we speak to Emma Haywood, Associate General Counsel at Babylon. Babylon is an international digital healthcare company offering services in the UK, US, Rwanda, Canada and the Asia-Pacific region.

Emma is a member of High Growth, our group for legal counsel or those working in legal teams in small medium-sized enterprises that are scaling up. The group meets regularly for virtual and in-person events.

Talents and hobbies

Having graduated with a first-class degree in Modern and Medieval languages before she found her way to law. Emma spends some of her free time honing her language abilities. “I’ve always been a linguist. I speak Spanish, Italian, and I dabble in Japanese. I love the new connections and alternative perspectives that learning a language brings.” She has also discovered a talent for ‘construction’ in the miniature form. “I’m very nifty with a Lego-building kit. I’ve developed a lot of expertise in Lego since I had two little boys.”

What are you most proud of?

Apart from her mastery of everyone’s favourite childhood building blocks, Emma has a lot to be proud of. She was promoted twice during her first eighteen months at Babylon. “I work a four-day week, I’ve taken two 12-month maternity leaves, I juggle my career alongside raising two young children.” She says there’s often a perception that these factors may limit one’s professional advancement, but Emma has actually found the opposite to be the case. 

“I’m more focused, I’m far more purposeful and strategic in how I work, and that has brought results in terms of career progression. I’m really pleased that I can show others that it can be done.” 

emma haywood

Challenges in your career

Before joining Babylon’s in-house team in April 2021, Emma worked at Slaughter and May for eight years. Although she started her career in private practice, Emma always knew she would “make the leap” to in-house when the time felt right. She says she struggled to convince some people that joining a “fast-paced scale-up” after spending eight years at a Magic Circle law firm was the right move. “But I think people just wanted to be reassured that I would be comfortable in an environment where there’s much more uncertainty. I moved in-house, in part, for the chaos,” Emma laughs.

However, she describes the experience as a “business education”, and says it has tested all of her skills, as well as “brought strengths to the fore that I hadn’t really thought about before”. She says these were the factors behind her decision to move in-house. “So, I was pleased that I was able to overcome that initial hurdle of switching gears to experience the twists and turns of in-house life.”

Coolest thing seen in legal recently

“I would say, the increased focus on leadership and people skills in law.” Emma explains that gaining more experience as a lawyer doesn’t necessarily mean that one naturally becomes a great leader or manager. She feels that some lawyers haven’t had the opportunity to consider the kind of manager they want to be, how they should give feedback, or how to motivate people. 

“So, I really admire movements like the O Shaped Lawyer, and all of the new training programmes that are emerging at law schools to teach the next generation how to be effective when interacting with others, and how to be leaders regardless of the stage they’re at in their careers.”

Advice to your younger self

“Invest in your network.” Emma says, “Some of the best experiences in my professional life have come about because I’ve taken the time to network, to get to know people, and to put myself out there and find opportunities.” She feels that creating those connections is really important. “And it makes your journey a lot more enjoyable, as well.”

Emma’s top networking tip

Emma believes in “the power of LinkedIn” and feels that it has started to democratise networking. “I always advise my mentees to have some kind of presence on LinkedIn, to make sure they have an up-to-date profile, and a photo, and a simple ‘about me’ section to explain who they are and control the ‘brand’ that they’re putting out into the world.” Emma says it can only be beneficial to put yourself out there and “have some visibility”.

Passion for mentoring

Emma is a mentor with The Social Mobility Foundation and leads a mentoring partnership between Babylon’s legal team and a mentoring charity called GROW. She says her focus with mentoring is to use it as a lever to create a more diverse and inclusive legal profession. “I mainly mentor aspiring lawyers from backgrounds that are underrepresented in some way – whether that’s related to race, ethnicity, or socio-economic background.” Emma feels that mentoring is an investment of time that brings benefits to both the mentor and the mentee, as well as to the profession as a whole. “Mentoring is a really concrete action that does make a difference.”

“I also speak a bit from experience as a mentee,” says Emma. “I am, myself, from an ethnic minority background, I’m the first lawyer in my family, one of the first to go to university… And I am where I am today, thanks to some really great teachers and mentors who inspired me to think big. So, it’s also, partly, about paying it forward, and being that person for the new, aspiring lawyers who are coming through on their way into the profession.”

Emma is excited about the future of the profession and the new mindset that the next generation of lawyers will bring. “There is huge scope for innovation and positive change, and I hope we can harness that to deliver legal services more effectively and in way that better responds to the needs of business and society.”