Kate Burns, NotOnTheHighStreet.comName: Kate Burns

Organisation: NotOnTheHighStreet.com

Position: General Counsel

Trained at: Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

In Hot 100 for: Stepping up to the GC role at a crucial time for NotOnTheHighStreet and making the position her own. Read her full Hot 100 profile.

What’s your most vivid memory from being a trainee?

One of my most vivid was when I was in a huge team working on a big M&A transaction.  It was 2am in the morning and we were waiting for the SPA to be turned.  It had been a long week with lots of late nights and we were flagging.  With an hour or so to wait, the partner rallied the troops by giving us each a golf ball and club. We proceeded to play his crazy golf course around the office.

After an hour or so of attempting to get golf balls into desk drawers, in-trays and shredding boxes and much laughter, we were ready to proof our newly turned, monster SPA.

Who has been the most influential person in your career? Why, and how have they helped you?

Barry O’Brien is a bit of a hero of mine.  I worked with him during most of my career at Freshfields.  He taught me the usual – attention to detail, how to run a deal and how to manage clients (and partners). He was also very open and insightful about the pressures of the job and how to deal with them.

We both share a deep interest in education and he got me involved as a Governor of Haggerston School which I only reluctantly gave up recently after eight years. He has always been very supportive and full of good advice, particularly when I decided to change roles at Freshfields.

What was the best career decision you ever made, and why? 

I believe that to be truly successful you have to be passionate about what you do.  As a Senior Associate at Freshfields, I had a period where I felt I had lost my passion for the law.  With the support of Barry O’Brien and Caroline Stroud, I moved into the Freshfields management team working essentially as Chief of Staff for the then new Senior Partner, Managing Partner and Executive Partner. 

After helping to transition in the management team that followed them, I moved on to become General Counsel at notonthehighstreet.  My role in the management team at Freshfields gave me incredibly valuable insight into running a business and the understanding of how I could love being in the law again and set me up for moving on to notonthehighstreet.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get to where you are/do the job you do?

Take every opportunity to broaden your experience beyond just doing the law and prioritise building and maintaining relationships.

What work or career-related project or activity would you really like to do, but don’t have time for?