The In-House Experience: Interview with Ingrid Cope, Legal Counsel, Coca-Cola GB&I
Ingrid is Legal Counsel at Coca-Cola GB&I, where she is on the GB&I Leadership Team. Ingrid is interested in innovation in legal services, and her own innovative approach to providing legal services was recognized by The Lawyer Magazine, who awarded her the In-house Lawyer of the Year award in 2016, and included her in their ‘Hot 100’ for 2016. Ingrid has previously worked as an in-house lawyer at H. J. Heinz, and Pernod Ricard, and in private practice in Sydney and London. Ingrid is a regular speaker at legal conferences and contributor to legal publications, and was recognized in the Timewise ‘Power Part Timer’ list in 2017.
What one change do you think would revolutionise the way you operate in your current role?
If one change would have a revolutionary impact I would have implemented it by now! The way that you operate rarely seems to change in a rapid or fundamental way – it is an organic evolution, following exposure to new ideas, a new business, and new influences. The important element for me is to have a mind-set of being open to change, and learning and adapting as quickly as possible.
What is your biggest challenge? What do you think is the biggest challenge for the legal profession in general?
From my perspective the biggest challenge for the legal profession and for me is to adapt and change as quickly as the current business environment. This requires an increased speed of responsiveness, coupled with advising in a complex, uncertain and volatile environment. My challenge us to continue to provide practical and effective legal advice within these parameters.
To grow any business you need to adapt to changing consumer preferences, and the legal profession is no different. There are new legal serve providers that are fulfilling some of these needs, and the profession needs to adapt to this new landscape.
What does “adding value” mean to you? What really makes a difference?
For me, ‘adding value’ as an in-house lawyer means bringing your full understanding of the business to your advice and approach to risk management. Your understanding of the business includes everything from the personality and heritage of the brands, the strategic vision of the company, and the appetite for risk.
For an external firm, adding value means supporting my work not just with advice and drafting, but with anticipating business issues to help me to manage risk more effectively. I also expect the firm to bring its broader sectoral experience to bear in advising, to help formulate pragmatic solutions for the business.
There has been a lot of discussion regarding legal project management. What does LPM mean to you?
An effective in-house lawyer should already have great project management skills, and these skills are often a tangible benefit that an in-house lawyer can bring to the wider business. This doesn’t just include the hard skills such as contract management, risk management, and budgeting. The soft skills such as stakeholder management are equally, if not more important. Legal Project Management has now provided an overlay of technology that can equip us with better tools to carry out this type of work. At the same time, I think it is very important to not to use technology for its own sake. It is has to be an enabler, and enhance the service you are providing.
How do you think the role of the GC is going to change over the next decade?
One of my favourite quotes is from the science fiction writer William Gibson, who said that “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” The changes to the in-house profession and to the role of the GC, which are paving the way for how the role will look 10 years from now, are here right now. We need to pay attention to developments and adopt best practice as quickly as we can.
You are in a relatively new role in your current business. What advice would you give another in-house lawyer starting a new role in a global organisation?
I would firstly recommend the book “The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter”, by Michael Watkins, which helps you to accelerate your ability to add value. It has far more useful advice than I could ever provide!
It’s quite obvious, but the more you can prepare the better. Explore the opportunity to attend team meetings to meet your future colleagues and clients in advance of your start date. I was very fortunate to be invited to attend a several social events and a conference with the Cola-Cola business before I started, which meant that I met a lot of my new colleagues and had the benefit of attending the business presentations, which helped me to hit the ground running.
Where do you go to for learning and inspiration, or who inspires you?
I am a great fan of creating peer networks, because so many of my in-house peers are very inspiring, and I learn a lot from them. For example, together with RPC’s Centre for Legal Leadership, I have established a group of GCs who are interested in innovation, and we have also founded another GC group who are focussed on preparing for Brexit. I am collaborative by nature and believe that a good network can always amplify your own understanding and enhance your insight into your own role.
An exciting aspect of being an in-house lawyer is also the talent around you in your own organization. At Coca-Cola I work with people who are at the top of their game, and they challenge me to constantly seek to improve my own work.
Finally, I am a very keen on improving my soft skills, and try to do so by utilising a range of resources: I make a point of asking my line managers for their recommendations on general business texts; I listen to podcasts; and I watch TED talks whenever I get the chance.
What key skills do you appreciate when working closely with legal colleagues?
Legal skills are a given in most organisation, so I appreciate working with people who have great interpersonal skills and business acumen. I really appreciate people who are good communicators – who can analyse complex situations and distill this into clear advice for the business.
What innovation could you not do without on a daily basis?
Coffee and the internet, in that order.
What innovation would you most like to see that would make your day better?
The ability to clone myself. I just never seem to have enough time to do all of the things I would like to do! Failing that, driverless cars will hopefully allow us to use our commuting time more fruitfully.
Follow Ingrid on Twitter on @IngridCope
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