At Crafty Counsel, we regularly focus on getting to know more about members of our in-house legal community. This week, we spoke with Oliver Grazebrook, Senior Attorney at Inmarsat, Director at The Student Lawyer, and member of FTSE & Friends — our group for in-house legal professionals working in large organisations or government.

[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.]

Across the Atlantic and back again

Oliver began his legal journey at Covington and Burling, navigating dispute resolution before unexpectedly transitioning to the United States. While there, he served as the sole counsel at two educational companies, CRCC Asia and Virtual Internships, deeply engaging in the legal matters of the Philadelphia scene until the pandemic prompted his return to London.

The evolution of the student lawyer

The Student Lawyer, founded in 2011 by Lewis Cheney, was an experimental platform spotlighting law careers. Its uniqueness lay in its creation and curation by law students, offering valuable insights and opportunities to budding legal enthusiasts. Oliver’s involvement in 2019 marked a revitalisation phase, enhancing the website’s design and introducing new features, notably the Mentoring Scheme, a cornerstone in fostering support within the legal student community.

Despite his bustling professional life, Oliver’s dedication to The Student Lawyer remained unwavering. While his involvement fluctuates due to work commitments, his contributions, especially in the mentoring scheme, remained pivotal. As he contemplates passing the baton to the next custodian, Oliver reflects on the emotional investment and the eagerness to see the platform thrive.

“It’s been a balancing act, especially now. I’d love to see it flourish under new stewardship, yet I am attached to the mentoring programme I’ve worked on.”

Favourite part of your current role?

Oliver really enjoys the business side of his current role, unlike his previous role in private practice where he was dealing mainly with dispute resolution and wasn’t deeply involved in the business’s activity. It was more about fixing big problems they’d rather avoid.

However, being in-house now means he’s part of the business discussions, not just the legal ones. Although he’s not the one making final calls, he’s right there in the mix, contributing to decisions that go beyond legal matters. This change has been refreshing for him – a move from being solely focused on legal issues to playing a role in broader business talks.

“In private practice, I felt disconnected from the core business. In-house, I’m in the midst of it all, contributing my perspective in decisions that aren’t solely legal. It’s about being an integral part of the business discussions.”

One cool thing you have seen in legal recently?

For Oliver, Crafty Counsel has been a great addition to the legal space. He has attended a few events himself but also knows from speaking to friends who are sole counsels that it has been a real game-changer for them.

Having been a sole counsel in the past, Oliver understands the isolation that comes with the role – the feeling of making it up as you go and not having anyone to bounce ideas off.

Imposter syndrome: Oliver’s biggest challenge in-house

Oliver mentions facing two major challenges during his career shift. Initially, as the first lawyer, he grappled with a steep learning curve, creating procedures and navigating unfamiliar terrain. Moving into his current role from a disputes background, he had to self-educate on the commercial aspects typical of in-house work. This change triggered feelings of imposter syndrome.

Additionally, being the only in-house counsel brought a mix of challenges. Being viewed as the most experienced legal professional, the lack of prior examples meant the assumption of constantly having answers.

Oliver’s journey in overcoming imposter syndrome was closely linked to the realisation that a significant part of the challenge arose from his own thoughts. Acknowledging the support and encouragement from others, he grasped the importance of quieting internal doubts and recognising that his skills and knowledge were adequate to confront the forthcoming challenges.