Name: Jessica Hinman
Job title: Legal Counsel
Employer: Xero Limited, Wellington, NZ
Length of time in current role: Almost 3 years
Where and when you studied law: Osgoode Hall Law School, Toronto, Canada, 2009-2012
Describe a typical day in your job
The best thing about legal careers, and especially an in-house legal role is that there really isn’t a “typical” day. You never know what’s going to land in your inbox on any given day, as your work is largely dependent on what’s going on in the business. This means our team assists with everything from company secretarial and governance work, to general corporate, commercial, regulatory, intellectual property, privacy and employee matters within the business.
How did you get into this job?
I started my career in private practice in Canada, but for personal reasons I decided to move to New Zealand. As luck would have it, one of my colleagues in Canada had a contact at Xero that referred me for the role.
Are there any particular study subjects or working experience you would recommend to prepare for a similar role to yours?
For most legal roles, the key things employers are looking for are those skills you will develop at law school (i.e. analytical, research and writing skills). That being said, I’d recommend studying subjects you enjoy, since you will pick up the required skills you need by virtue of studying law.
Specifically, the role of an in-house lawyer is very unique and a lot of the skills you need are acquired on the job.
What are the highlights of the job?
The people and culture at Xero is definitely a highlight – I get to work alongside a lot of intelligent and creative people!
It’s also very rewarding to be part of a legal team that supports the growth of a business.
What are the challenges of the job?
An in-house role includes a diverse workload, and although this makes the job interesting, it can also mean you have to juggle multiple tasks at the same time. This means there is an on-going need to prioritise your work based on business priorities, and make sure you are managing internal relationships and expectations with your key stakeholders.
What kind of personal qualities are suited to this job?
You have to be highly motivated and proactive in nature, have good interpersonal skills, and the ability to work as part of a team.
Also, I think it helps if you are the kind of person that is constantly looking at new ways to improve, grow and innovate in the ways in which you work.
What one thing do you wish someone had told you at law school?
Work hard, but don’t worry about finding a job or knowing what area of law you want to practice in, if you don’t already know. These things happen naturally and you’ll be surprised at how many unexpected opportunities will come your way.
Any advice for students wanting to get into a similar role?
An in-house role requires thinking on your feet and being able to engage with the business on a number of different issues. It would be best to have a variety of skills and the ability to think creatively.
Start making connections with practitioners, professors and your colleagues – you never know when these relationships will be useful down the line in your career!