At Crafty Counsel, we regularly focus on getting to know more about a member of our in-house legal community. This week we speak to Leigh Kirkpatrick, Managing Legal Counsel at NatWest.

Leigh is a member of our FTSE & Friends community group for in-housers working in large organisations and government.

Moving from a Scottish law firm to one of the largest banks in the UK

Leigh started her legal career with Scottish law firm Brodies LLP. During this time in private practice, Leigh went on secondment at NatWest and ended up never leaving! 

Leigh has been at NatWest for ten years where she’s focused on outsourcing technology and IP. Dealing with big outsourcing projects is Leigh’s bread and butter, alongside bank technology projects, innovation work, and transactions in the emerging tech space.  The Outsourcing, Technology and IP Legal team, based at the bank’s headquarters in Edinburgh, is a team of 12 within NatWest’s wider Legal, Corporate Governance and Regulatory Affairs function.

Making the jump in-house

When moving from a large law firm to an in-house team at a bank, Leigh shares how she wasn’t prepared for the shift in the scale. Not only was the quality of work high, but there was also a real focus on emotional intelligence, client-centricity, design thinking and leadership.  “Working in-house broadened my perspective of what being a lawyer could be”. Leigh describes how this way of operating was completely different to anything she’d previously experienced. However, Leigh has grown to thrive in this environment and it helped her become the lawyer she is today.

Through these experiences, Leigh has developed a progressive mindset and values a coaching culture. This has allowed her team to share wins and failures openly so that they can learn and improve.

Falling in love with your job

Being with a company for ten years is an impressive feat which shows commitment, passion, and the ability to grow. Leigh shares how she has been able to stay with the same company for so long!

“Everything, I absolutely love the job, I love the variety, I love the scale that we work at, I love all of the people in the team, I love the fact that we’ve got such a long leash and focus on doing things differently and leveraging the expertise of others”

Having a role that combines the many facets of what it means to be a modern lawyer means she’s continuously challenged to discover new solutions and ideas. Leigh shares how by keeping things fresh, she falls back in love with her job.

Why it’s so important to hear different perspectives

Since joining the Crafty Counsel community, Leigh has “learned absolutely loads”. Leigh told us she’s been working on a project exploring neurodiversity in law and making the legal profession more accepting and inclusive. During this, Leigh found speaking with fellow community members to get differing perspectives has had a huge impact on the progress.

Seeing discussions with people from all walks of life, and having access to a platform filled with “videos full of different perspectives is great because it allows anybody to tap into the Crafty Counsel network,  work out who you’ve got shared interest with and reach out”.

Progressive mindset and adapting a coaching culture

When we asked Leigh about a proud career moment, rather than focusing on a personal achievement, she took this opportunity to give her entire team a shoutout!

Five years ago, Leigh and her team underwent a restructure. This allowed them to spend time considering how the culture should look. Leigh shared how this made them more thoughtful when hiring by looking for particular traits which fit their team culture. For instance, Leigh described these key traits as: 

  1. Having a progressive mindset
  2. Being creative with new ideas and fresh insights 
  3. Having a strong EQ in addition to a strong IQ
  4. Being curious and having a growth mindset 

Whilst forming the new team, they also wanted to ensure they kept a “strong coaching culture” which supports new employees and allows feedback to be given (and taken).

Looking back, five years on, Leigh told us how incredibly proud she is of the culture they have built and sustained.

Looking for cool things outside of the legal department

When asked about what cool thing Leigh has seen in legal recently, she told us how the thing that’s served them the best is “actually finding interesting things outside of law. What are other organisations doing? What’s actually happening in other industries that we can learn from and repurpose? For example, we’ve taken ideas around story-telling and avoiding group-think from Pixar. We’ve also brought a lot of insights from the hotel industry to our approach to customer-centricity.” 

What advice would you give to your younger self?

“I think you quite often have a strong image of what a lawyer is or should be. However, actually bringing your own personality to the job is more important. Building relationships requires you to be open, honest, and comfortable with who you are.”

Learning that you don’t have to fit in a box and you can be who you are, is one of the lessons Leigh had to learn. She knows it is also one that a lot of people just starting their career will still have to overcome.