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 Tom Judge, Senior Legal Counsel at Fidelity International Strategic Ventures.

Tom is a member of our Fundtastic community group for in-housers working in venture capital, private equity, and other investment funds or asset managers.

The legal side of Dragon’s Den

Despite his love of Law, Tom actually first completed a degree in Psychology. It wasn’t until 2008 that Tom began “saving up for law school” before the financial crisis hit “which was pretty classic timing”. Thankfully, Tom secured a training contract with Taylor Wessing.

Going into this, Tom had his “eye on their market leading venture capital team”. Being part of the venture capital team, for Tom, felt like “the legal side of Dragon’s Den”. With his mind firmly set on this, he qualified into that team. Then after a hectic, but fun, three years Tom decided to move in-house to a new tech startup.

From there Tom went on to work at Visa as their Lead Ventures Lawyer, and is now Senior Legal Counsel at  Fidelity Ventures – the VC arm of Fidelity International who invest in fintech businesses. However, Tom hasn’t forgotten his first degree, as he goes on to say “I do definitely use my background in psychology to try and find out people’s motivations for things or try to find common ground… whether it works or not, is up for grabs”.

What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced in your in-house career journey? 

Being in a law firm is “similar to being a surgeon where you have a very specific area of expertise. When you go in-house, you tend to become more of a GP, a bit more of a generalist.” Tom is always willing to learn about other areas of legal, but he ensures his role is centred around venture capital which is one of the many reasons he joined Fidelity Ventures because it can be a challenge to find an in-house role that allows this focus. 

“My midlife crisis is definitively my daily cold water plunge”

Being able to juggle three young children and a dog is something Tom has to do day to day, however, we think this is more of a super power! Tom told us how in the last year his morning routine has become a priority for him, and helps sets him up for a “productive rest of the day in what is quite a busy life”. However, the thing which sets Tom’s morning routine apart the most is… his ice bath!

In what he described as a “midlife crisis”, Tom ends his “slightly quirky morning routine” with an ice-water plunge. After watching Wim Hof “the crazy Dutch guy who is all about cold water therapy”, Tom discovered the benefits it has on your breathing and immune system. 

“Even if that is a load of rubbish, you definitely get out feeling awake and ready to go”.

Being the focus of the company’s attention

When Tom made the move in-house he knew he wanted to find a role which involved “as much venture capital as possible”. An investment is often the main focus of a company at the time and unlike in M&A where things can get a little bit fractious, with venture capital alignment and common ground is prioritised because everyone has to work together after the deal is done. Tom says “I love that you’re the focus of the company’s attention and it’s a pretty collaborative process, it’s always exciting”.

Tom Judge on moving in-house and focusing on Venture Capital

The need for legal to be visible to the wider business is something widely discussed, and it’s something which Tom also prioritises. He makes sure he is sat with the business –  trying to encourage them to involve him early in the process so he can understand the business rationale behind decision making. Tom also notes that knowing when to stay quiet or when to add value is vital!

Everyone’s in the same boat

Despite being fairly new to the Crafty Counsel community, Tom has already learnt numerous things he otherwise wouldn’t. In particular, he’s found advice around abort fees with law firms engagement letters and maturity of the Government’s Future Fund loans especially useful as a sole lawyer involved in those topics. 

Without Crafty Counsel there wouldn’t be such an obvious and easy way for me to engage with those things

Realising “everyone’s in the same boat” has helped Tom to navigate challenges and overcome them with a new, ready-made network!

It’s all about being able to juggle

Being able to live a fulfilling life, both at work and home, even when things get tough is something Tom is proud of. Tom shares how important it is to get a healthy balance and to know when to put the laptop down for family time is crucial.

At the end of the day,Tom believes you need to have the self discipline to switch off your phone, close your laptop, and have some uninterrupted time with a good boxset (P.S. Tom recommends everyone watches White Lotus!) to simply relax.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

The advice I’d give to my younger self is to advocate for your own skills, successes, and career wishes

Growing up, Tom previously found himself not always advocating for his work. Tom shares how finding success in his career made him realise that “no one cares about you as much as you do” so make sure you advocate for yourself, but have enough self awareness to do so without being arrogant.