We’re back again with a unique insight into the lives and minds of some of Ireland’s top legal talent!
The next installment of our “This Is Your Legal Life” blog series focuses on Aoife Gallagher Watson, General Counsel at global FinTech Humm https://bit.ly/3IP1ibO
In this blog, Aoife takes us through her education, career history, current role, and of course her penchant for John Grisham novels which, from a young age, sparked a love for all things legal!
So if you have always wondered what a day in the life of a General Counsel looks like and how these high-achieving individuals balance it all… keep reading!
Q: Current Role
General Counsel / Head of Legal for humm (Ireland) and acting General Counsel for humm (UK).
Q. Education (University)
Bit of a mixed bag to be honest. I did a BA in Accounting and HR; PgDip in Law; MA in Law and a couple of Law Society Diplomas and Certificates in Employment and Data Protection. I also did some further study in Australia when applying for admission to practice over there.
Q. Professional Experience: (Training firm, PQE roles)
I trained in general practice where I got excellent hands-on experience that I will always be grateful for. Soon after qualifying, my husband and I moved to Australia where we stayed for a little over 6 years. I worked in large national and international law firms, practising in the areas of commercial dispute resolution, employment, and health and safety. As a result, I am now admitted to practice in Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.
Q. Why Law?
John Grisham has a lot to answer for! I don’t know if everyone does this, but I used to borrow my parents’ books as a child. It didn’t really matter what they were, fiction or non-fiction, I would read anything. John Grisham made a regular appearance and for some reason, I always found his books the most gripping!
Side note: Real life as a lawyer is not exactly how it appears in The Client or The Firm (which is probably a good thing!).
On a more serious note, I studied business and employment law subjects as part of my undergrad and was simply intrigued and ultimately decided that it was something I wanted to pursue in a bigger way, which is how I ended up going down the post-grad route.
Q. Why In-House Legal?
It’s something I’ve considered on and off for a while now, as that proximity to the business/business strategy that in-house provides always appealed to me. However, the right opportunity never really came along. Earlier this year I met humm’s CEO (Ireland and UK), PJ Byrne through the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce (IACC). I knew from PJ that the company was going through a really exciting period of growth and expansion, not just here in Ireland, but in the UK and Canada as well. Unsurprisingly, given its Australian heritage, several members of the humm team are involved with the IACC and so I also knew that humm has an amazing group of people who are extremely passionate about what they do and what they can do for their customers. It was a tough call, as I was working with an incredible team at A&L Goodbody, but when humm were looking for a new GC to come on board, it was just too exciting an opportunity to pass up.
Q. Typical working day
As varied as you can imagine. Variety isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I absolutely love it!
My morning could start early on calls with Australia/New Zealand. Next, I could be reviewing commercial agreements or engaging in contract negotiations. Later, I could be dealing with GDPR related queries, or advising on regulatory or employment related matters.
Three times a week I sit in on calls with the senior management team. The legal department is highly valued at humm, and it works really well being involved in management discussions so that you’re across new projects etc from the get-go. I could close off the day (/evening) on a Teams call with my colleagues in Australia or New Zealand collaborating on global projects that impact the business worldwide.
Q. The Life of a Lawyer: One Pro, One Challenge
Pro: The law is always changing, so you’re always learning, and I love that.
Challenge: The law is always changing, so you’re always learning and trying to keep pace!
Q.Your top tips for switching off
I’ve let some bad habits form over the years, so if I’m honest, I’m still learning on this one. At this stage in my life, for me, there’s no better distraction than family time with my husband and two little boys.
Q. Your Perfect Weekend
After so many years away, time with family and time just enjoying Ireland and all it has to offer feature high on the list.
Q. Best Piece of Advice you’ve been given
Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can get done today.
Q. Advice you would give your younger self
1. Ask the stupid questions.
2. Mistakes will happen – embrace them, especially early on in your career. There is very little that cannot be fixed and the lessons that you learn will make you a better lawyer.
3. Speak up and hold your ground.
4. Try to introduce good “work-life balance” habits early. Presenteeism is worthless, but finding time to stay fit, active and healthy will actually help you perform better in your job because you will have the energy to do so.
Want to know more about humm?
Humm is the leading consumer payment provider in the Irish market and it is part of the ASX-listed (Australia Securities Exchange) hummgroup, which was established in 1991. hummgroup is a diversified full-service payments company with leading offerings in consumer finance and SME finance. The company has built a brand over decades that enables retailers to empower their customers through its flexible, consumer payment solutions with the ability to pay back the cost of their purchase over five fortnightly installments.
They serve a broad footprint of millennial spenders, through to young families and small and medium businesses, hummgroup facilitates purchases for over 2.7 million customers across Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the UK. Over 1,000 Irish-based businesses use humm payment products across a range of sectors that include fashion, beauty, home improvement, personal services, and motor and travel.