Name: Alexis Alexander
Role: General counsel
Trained at: Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
Year qualified: 2012
What’s your most vivid memory from being a trainee?
Being in the real estate trainee seat rotation and having to transcribe a tea stained illegible A3 deed from 100 years ago over a weekend. I remember just thinking “Is this it – is this what it is all about?!”
I felt trapped in the big firm cycle and realised I wanted to break away and do “real law” and real work very quickly.
What is the wisest thing anyone ever said to you (and who said it)?
“You can do it all, but you can’t do it all perfectly.” A female non-exec at my former employer.
Who (for better or worse) has been the most influential person in your career? Why?
I am going to give a very honest answer to this one. I am a true believe in the value of mentors. I have spoken before about mentorship: to my mind the most influential type of mentor is the one who you can just pick up the phone to and chat through any predicament: less a formal structured programme and more a meeting of minds and shared experience. One of my mentors, a very seasoned GC and thoroughly wonderful human being. He has provided me with not only invaluable advice on how to handle difficult situations, professional conflicts and day to day conundrums but also taught me to not be quite so hard on myself. I am my own worst critic and he has helped me see that.
Initially joining as a sole counsel and first lawyer in a highly demanding business to then becoming their global GC makes for pretty high expectations; couple that with my own somewhat unrealistic standards of myself and you can end up feeling a huge degree of pressure.
My mentor has helped me see I am actually doing a pretty good job and to occasionally cut myself some slack! Doing the kind of job I do, there are an infinite number of things “on the list”: you will never feel like you have ticked off every box on the list so sometimes it’s important to just stop and reflect on what you HAVE achieved rather than what you still want to achieve. I am guilty of spending my time focusing on the latter but my mentor has helped me, even forced me, to devote a few minutes a week to the former.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get to where you are/do the job you do?
Don’t let fear be the only reason to hold you back from taking an opportunity. Know that EVERYONE has imposter syndrome, some people are just more honest about it than others. Every new opportunity will leave you out of your comfort zone but give it a few months and you will be a dab hand.
What’s your best friend from law school doing now?
I haven’t spoken to him in ages but he has left law and is now Director of Community at Jameel, a civic and social organisation using data and technology to tackle global issues.