The In-House Experience: Interview With Vicky Sandry, General Counsel, Sky
Vicky Sandry is General Counsel at Sky UK. After studying Law with French at Birmingham University, she qualified at CMS Cameron McKenna in 1995 and practised as a competition lawyer before joining Sky in 2000. She has held a number of roles during that time, starting as a legal and regulatory advisor focussing on competition law and broadcasting regulation, then heading up the Competition, Regulatory and Corporate teams, before taking up the newly created role of General Counsel – UK and ROI, in July 2016. She has seen huge changes in her time at Sky, seeing Sky move from being a pay TV provider, to entering broadband in 2005, and most recently in 2016 launching Sky Mobile. Vicky has worked part time since 2004 to enable her to balance her work, family and career and currently works 3.5 days a week. In 2013 she was included on the 2nd Power Part Time List, which recognises 50 men and women who work part time at the top of their profession. She regularly mentors and coaches others and seeks to demonstrate that it is possible to work part time in a challenging role and continue to progress your career.
What one change would you make within your in-house legal team that you feel would revolutionise the way you or your team operates?
There isn’t one single change – it isn’t that simple! Often the most powerful changes can be brought about incrementally – the British Cycling team’s “aggregation of marginal gains” approach was revolutionary and if we could improve everything we do by 1% that would have a huge impact. At Sky we are known for “Believing in Better” and I think that approach fits really well with the marginal gains approach. We always like to think about how we can do things better, as well as acknowledging and celebrating what we’ve done well.
What is your biggest challenge? What do you think is the biggest challenge for the legal profession in general?
As I’m still relatively new to my role (I became General Counsel for Sky UK in July last year) the biggest challenge for me personally is staying on top of the vast range of work we do in the Sky Legal Department – and I have the additional challenge of running a large Department in 3.5 days a week, at a hot desk! I think the biggest challenge for the legal profession in general is how to keep innovating in the provision of legal services, particularly through the use of technology, artificial intelligence, etc. It’s a bit of a generalisation, but I think lawyers are not naturally inclined to be highly innovative risk-takers. I was having an interesting discussion recently about the extent to which it’s OK for lawyers to fail. Trying and failing is an established part of the process of innovation, for example in start-up businesses. But is it really ok for lawyers to fail? It’s an interesting question because if it’s not ok to fail, then we might be more reluctant to innovate in the way we do things – for fear of it going wrong.
What does “adding value” mean to you? What really makes a difference?
Adding value means a number of things. There is no-one more expert at advising Sky, than the lawyers in the Sky Legal Department. We have a unique understanding of, and insight into, the business areas we support, and for me that is at the heart of adding value. We don’t just advise on the law, we do so in context, providing high quality, business-focussed legal advice which is meaningful to, and tailored for, our business partners. Adding value also means owning your legal advice and putting yourself in the position of the person receiving it.
There has been a lot of discussion regarding legal project management. What does LPM mean to you?
Legal project management for me means using specific techniques and skills to enable us to deliver projects on time and to the right quality. Project management is used widely in the business and so as in-house lawyers we need to understand it and apply it in our daily work.
How do you think the role of the GC is going to change over the next decade?
I don’t see the role of GC getting any easier in the next decade. The role combines the challenge of being across the key legal issues affecting the company at a high level, with the perennial issue of doing “more for less”. The legal issues seem to get ever more complex, and then there’s Brexit. And on the resource management front, although everyone is talking about legal process outsourcing and using AI in legal work, these aren’t yet commonplace or used at scale in-house – but their use is increasing. So over the next decade the GC is going to have to deal with both of these challenges.
What is your vision for your legal team?
My vision for the Sky Legal Department is that it is a place where work is an engaging and enjoyable experience, where people feel that their work is meaningful and where everyone in the department can grow and reach their full potential. It’s important to me that people feel that they can balance their work and personal lives. Flexible working – in all its forms – is a big part of this at Sky Legal. I work a 3.5 day week and that gives me the balance I need to see my family, progress my career, and take care of my personal well-being.
Where do you go to for learning and inspiration, or who inspires you?
I am always looking for ways to expose myself to new idea or ways of thinking – that might be by reading books or articles, following interesting people on Twitter, or going to conferences. One of my favourite ways of finding new ways of thinking is simply by having coffee with different Sky colleagues. I’m lucky enough to work with some amazing and inspirational people, who are always up for a chat over coffee.
What key skills do you look for in your team members?
At the end of the day we are lawyers and the first thing I look for is the ability to apply the law, and to provide clear, concise and logical legal advice. Advocacy and story-telling is really important – being persuasive, both verbally and in writing, is a key skill, whatever your area of law. I also really value the skill of being able to put yourself in someone else’s position.
What innovation could you not do without on a daily basis?
My guilty secret right now in the cold weather is my heated steering wheel. A more boring reply would be my iPad.
What innovation would you most like to see that would make your day better?
A drone that could carry the weight of one GC plus briefcase, and fly above all the traffic to get me to tonight’s parents’ evening on time.
Follow Vicky on Twitter on @vickysandry
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