Mutual understanding

I joined Coors Brewers as a legal adviser four years ago. Principally, my role involves supporting the marketing and sponsorship teams with their advertising compliance issues and sponsorship deals, plus managing and advising on Coors’ IP rights.

However, nine months ago I decided to take a secondment with a twist – it was within Coors’ marketing department.

It is common for private practice lawyers to spend time working in their clients’ businesses, albeit still in the legal arena. The marketing department is my client so, when the opportunity came up, I took an internal secondment working as a marketing manager. The decision has resulted inbenefits to both the business and the legal department.

Coors is keen for those in the support functions to become ‘business partners’ to ensure they do not work in silos and have a better view of how others work. A nine-month secondment gave me a better understanding of the area I was supporting without losing too much time out of the legal field. In short, I became a legal business partner.

There is always a risk in taking time out of the legal world, but I wanted to become a better lawyer, not have a change in career.

I worked on a series of projects as a marketing manager for Carling. From brand planning to placing beer fridges in supermarkets and running a coupon promotion, I had a real chance to work in a hands-on marketing role.

Not only did I gain marketing skills, but also solid commercial skills that would stand me in good stead in my legal role.

The secondment worked for me. It stretched me well out of my comfort zone and benefited the company too. Now I am seen as part of the wider team and my profile with the business has been raised dramatically.

The marketing team recognises the value that a lawyer can offer and I am now involved much earlier in the decision-making process. By including me at an earlier stage, we have been able to save time and sometimes money.

I have a much better understanding of how the department works and the pressures it is under. I do not pretend to be a marketer, I am still a lawyer but I am more adept at speaking their language and not coming across as too ‘legal’. I am the ‘legal conscience’ of marketing but also have the chance to offer my ideas into the marketing mix.

So if you get the opportunity to go on a secondment, or take time out to broaden your commercial experience, take it – you can only gain from it.