In this episode of Lessons I Learned in Law Scott Brown speaks to Jayne Bowie, General Counsel and Company Secretary at Amey PLC. Jayne leads the Legal and Corporate Services team, advising the business on all legal and corporate governance matters. Jayne has led the team on complex litigation and key M&A opportunities. She has also facilitated a closer relationship between the commercial, risk and legal functions.
Jayne shares the lessons she learned in law including:
Jayne also reveals her fascinating ancestral connection to Japanese Samurais, and details her hobbies and passions outside of work.
Presented by Scott Brown of Heriot Brown Legal Recruitment.
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Scott Brown (00:03):
Hi, my name's Scott Brown. Welcome to Lessons I Learned in Law. I'm founder and director of Heriot Brown In-house Legal Recruitment. We specialize in fulfilling legal careers in-house. I'm an ex-lawyer, myself or a recovering lawyer. And each week on the podcast, I, I get to sit down with some exceptional people from across the legal community and figure out what it, what it is that motivates them and drives them in the world of legal. Regardless of who my guest is my aim is really to unpack the lessons that they've learned in their career. And to key three key lessons. And to share these with you and hope that this sets you on a more fulfilled way in your own career path.
My guest today is Jayne Bowie who's General Counsel and Company Secretary at Amey PLC, which is an infrastructure services company with a turnover of almost 2 billion and 14,000 employees. She has 12 lawyers in her legal team at the moment. And Jayne also sits on the executive committee at Ame y. So Jayne, great to have you here.
Jayne Bowie (01:15):
Great to be here. Thanks for the invitation.
Scott Brown (01:18):
Thanks for joining us. So we'll hopefully get to hear more around Jayne's personal life outside of work, her musical her, her musical talents and her love of cooking, but we'll jump straight in Jayne, if you don't mind. And if you could share with us please lesson number one.
Jayne Bowie (01:49):
Okay, sure. I'll, I'll just precut to it by saying it's actually incredibly challenging to narrow the lessons I've learned certainly down to three. But I'm giving it a go today. So <laugh>, I, I think number one for me is throughout my career, I guess that being successful you, you really need to be either part of, or leading a strong team. And I think U only really is as good as the, the weakest link. So to say and, and perhaps that's coming from a transactional or background you know, private practice and then through, through an in-house life. And then obviously in my current role as GC there's, there's no way I can deliver on my job and be successful without having a, a very strong team around me.
Scott Brown (02:39):
Tell us a bit about your team at the moment.
Jayne Bowie (02:43):
Yeah. We have a team of about 12 lawyers, including myself and a corporate services team as well. And you know, we work across our business lines across Amy, we've got a number of different business lines. So we, we are very integrated into that team. But really, you know, with, with the business, as large as ours, the, the lawyers are really integrated and working alongside the business. So really their sort of day to day working partners tend to be the business, whether it's commercial, finance technical bidding, procurement, you know, the various functions. And I think without them having the support from one another, for me you know, it's an empowering them to go to go off and have those conversations with the business and to take the lead, etc. You know, they need to feel appreciated and valued and above all to be happy. I think for me with their jobs to be able to deliver such, such great results for the business.
Scott Brown (03:46):
Right. You mentioned empowering your team - how do you do you do that, Amey?
Jayne Bowie (03:58):
The team has sort of evolved into having a little bit more of a formal structure, I guess, in place. So have like a tier of legal directors and then senior council and then legal council and the legal directors are very much embedded within the business. So they they'll be part of the individual business unit sort of leadership at teams themselves. So little bit like a GC roles, I guess, within those sort of business units in a way. And, and the senior council tend to work alongside a particular business unit or across group matters. And then the genie council are working across all matters to get a wider exposure to the business. And I think having that, being that sort of point of responsibility that single point of responsibility, I guess, in, in the legal director role gives them that sort of accountability, that responsibility, they they're the ones who get the insight into everything that's going on in their business world.
Jayne Bowie (04:57):
Yeah. And then, and then obviously getting that feedback and us coming together as a function, we obviously see everything that's happening across the business, which is a unique position to be in. It's probably only finance that probably has that same type of overview as a function. So we learn from one another and what's going on and I very much, you know, I they're doing all the hard work then feeding up to me to help, you know, work out what the strategic aim are and to give them a little bit of direction and support really. Yeah, I think the question for me is really, you know, what can I do to help them? What do they need, what tools do they need and to be able to perform their roles.
Scott Brown (05:42):
Right. And you mentioned, you mentioned your time in, in private practice and as, as a transactional lawyer having, having helped with this or, or highlighted this lesson. Do you have an example of that in, in private practice and how that's differed from moving in-house and working in-house?
Jayne Bowie (06:01):
Yeah, I think I think very similar and I guess as I mentioned, I was in a transactional legal practice anyway - project finance. So you're working with different disciplined lawyers across, across the firm, different advisors externally and obviously members of the client team. But obviously, you know, if you've got deadlines that are imposed by the client, unless you sort of pitch in, you know, you can't just finish your piece of work and head off home to someone else in the team who's working on something and you can help you kind of, you all need to pitch in together. Otherwise you've got an unhappy partner up the chain or an unhappy client. So I think you really do need to sort of pitch in, and obviously if, if you do a fantastic job and a transaction, but there's one small document with one small mistake that has a large impact then that doesn't reflect well on the entire team.
Jayne Bowie (06:55):
So I think private practice and then moving into sort of the in-house role. And I think the big difference really was that instead of being surrounded by lawyers and working with lawyers and, and bouncing off those ideas, you're surrounded by the business. And your team is very much then the business. So the commercial guys, the business guys, the bidding guys and, and they don't speak the same language as lawyers actually, they <laugh> they probably speak more normal language, but it, it takes a bit longer to understand what they're saying or for you to convey what you are saying. You have to explain things slightly differently and and your team becomes a much more multi-skilled I think team in that respect. And for me, it took a little while to adjust, I think moving in house initially. But then to really appreciate the skills of the o ther people that you're working with is, is really quite insightful.
Scott Brown (07:54):
What do you think is missing from training in private practice that doesn't maybe prepare you for, for a move in-house or working in a business? I know you're a member of, is it WILN ‘what in house lawyers need’?
Jayne Bowie (08:19):
Yeah. That’s right.
Scott Brown (08:20):
Is that DLA initiative?
Jayne Bowie (08:22):
That’s Right. It's a a DLA initiative and it's so I sit on one of the advisory committees helping establish like the program for the year ahead on, on the training really, and the events that they're hosting. And, and that intent really is about a lot of it is, is about teaching business skills right. And about understanding how well arming really junior and up and coming in-house lawyers on how to progress their careers within the in-house business. And, and I think a lot of it will be definitely the business skills side of life. And, and, you know, in private practice, you do the document rather, and you, you hand it over to the client and and you walk away onto the next transaction and, and in-house, you, you do the document and then you, you carry on with the document because now the, the hard work starts and you actually have to understand something in practice. And it's, it's really about understanding the translation of the words into actions for us as an infrastructure services company you know, seeing that tangible impact of the words is very different to just with being in my small office and all <laugh> moving from one transaction to another.
Scott Brown (09:41):
Yeah. You're crossing your fingers that works in house and <laugh> not to do with the, the fallout. How did you get, how did you become involved in, in that then with, with DLA and when in your career in-house, did you become involved with ‘what in-house lawyers need’?
Jayne Bowie (09:59):
Do you know? I can't even remember actually it's been a while. I, when I moved in house, I went along to some of their sessions. And hen subsequently was approached and asked if I would, would help out on their panel and through COVID we had a, a slight lull because events moved to more online forum, and, and now we're sort of coming back to more hybrid online basis, but it's yeah- quite a few years now since, since helping and working with them.
And it's interesting actually, because I think to some of the previous people that you've had on the podcast, when I think they've been talking about networking it was three the WIN advisory committee that I then joined mentor, which is a mentoring initiative, not for profit run by one of the fellow committee members from the WIN advisory panel.
Jayne Bowie (10:58):
So it's, I, I guess just to emphasize that sort of connections point, I guess it's hard to make time for networking and it's hard to do all these things. But if you can try and carve out few things of interest to you, then one thing does lead to another. And I think I've always been quite interested in <affirmative> mentoring people, developing people, which is why looking at that, that the WIN program is something of interest to me and wanting to help develop in house lawyers and similar to the mentoring initiative really as well.
Scott Brown (11:33):
Yeah, no, those both sound great. I think, it is always good to give back and realize what you were missing maybe in your, earlier in your career. That's part of that was part of the motivation for this podcast as well to people don't know what they don't know. So it's good to, it's good to listen and, and hear and share.
If people wanted to get involved in those, how does is, is it an open, are the open forums or is it something they can learn more about?
Jayne Bowie (12:22):
Yeah, so the WIN program, I think it's accessible through the DLA website to just do a Google search for DLA and WIN. And perhaps I can give you the link as well for it. So you can sign up if you are in house. Mentorex, I think is a, we, we are currently midway through the current cohort. So that's probably not accessible at, at the moment cuz partnering has already been undertaken. So but there's there lots of mentoring schemes out there, informal and formal. I think so people keep an eye out for the various programs sort of get advertised by firms. I think they'll probably see something.
Scott Brown (13:07):
Moving on to, to lesson two then Jen, if you could share that with us please.
Jayne Bowie (13:16):
Yeah, I think I think lesson two really and, and one that I've always been conscious of throughout my career, but probably became much more evident when I stepped into the GC role is that your legal skills are extremely transferable. Not across, not just across rather different areas of legal specialism, but also across different disciplines within a business. So whether that's risk commercial finance business in a broader sense. And I think and I think sort of understanding that is quite crucial because it's the skills that you learn as part of your legal training and experience that you carry through, which, which lots of people don't come across, you know, in, in their different disciplines of work. And, and I think, you know, as a lawyer, you typically are very good at analysis. You're very good at problem solving. You probably have very good communication skills and being able to convey your, your advice and, and, and definitely like the ability to distill vast, you know, amounts of information into the salient points that you need to convey.
Jayne Bowie (14:23):
That's, you know, that's a huge skill that lawyers have. And I think yeah, when I, when I, when I stepped into sort of the GC role and, and onto the executive committee, I think there was the first couple of committees, I think I, I sort of sat there and thought, ‘Oh, this is really interesting. And, and there's nothing legal here’. You know, what, you know, ‘what have I got to offer? What what, what, what are my views’? And then you sort of like penny sort of dropped like, oh, actually it's, it's because I'm, I'm just applying my knowledge, my skills base to, to the, to the current topic. And obviously you, you're looking at every aspect of the business, you making all these business decisions and, and, you know, and, and clearly there's the governance points and obviously making sure the directors are on track and, and the rest of that, but it's really about taking those skills.
Jayne Bowie (15:15):
And I think, I think lawyers shouldn't be, and certainly junior lawyers, shouldn't be frightened of taking those skills and understanding that actually, if they're asked to do something that they've never done before, they just need to apply their mind to it and take a little bit of time. And they, and they can find the way forwards and, and knowing who to ask as well for help and, and coming back to that sort of support network as well. And making sure that you've got that in place and knowing who to ask the right question is, is probably a very good lesson for in-house life, I think.
Scott Brown (15:44):
Yeah, that's great. I think it's great advice and, and good lesson.
How did you identify the, the transferable skills that you, that you had and were applying, was there a time that the penny dropped? Was it in that board? Was it in those board meetings?
Jayne Bowie (16:00):
<Laugh> I think it probably was actually, I mean, you know, I, I think you realize throughout life that you, you get to be quite equipped on, on how to negotiate as for sure, or how to you know, things that go your way, how to sort of fix something. You know, my brother always used, say felt sorry for people, if they, if I had an argument with them, because, you know, he he'd know that I would just sort of come out as the sort of being very influential, even if I was wrong and making the other person feel that I was right. And they were wrong, even if it was the other, the way around. And I, and I think so I think you, you do acquire a number of skills. But I think definitely in that, in that exec committee and boardroom role, when you sit there and actually some of the time you are, you are digesting a huge amount of information that you don't actually have a huge amount of background knowledge on. But the ability to ask certain questions to sort of get to the crux of the issue. I think a really valuable,
Scott Brown (17:02):
So your, your promotion to general council at Amey - did that come hand in hand with a seat on the exec?
Jayne Bowie (17:19):
Yes, that's right. Our executive committee is comprises of the, the CEO, CFO HR director transformation, the, the MDs of the operating business and then myself heading up the team. So it's and our communications director as well. So it's, they sort of cross discipline foster business leads sit on the executive committee. Yeah,
Training to sort of step up to be a GC or head of, you know, from your sort your day job. And I think you know, and there's, there's lots of good advice out on the internet about sort of, you know, the transition. But actually, you know, when you, when you get there yourself, you actually realize it's a completely different job to being a lawyer, you know, an in-house lawyer or of certainly a private practice lawyer. Which is why I like the structure we have now at Amey in terms of having the Legal Director role, because that's more akin to, you know, looking at all the issues that the business unit that the various business units are facing. So there's a wider business exposure. But otherwise, you know, you're stepping into very different job, man management focus, leading team you know, advising the board, advising the executive committee. And yeah, it's a very, very different job to me trushing through my documents on a project financing.
Scott Brown (19:02):
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Different different day job. Definitely.
It's often asked like, how do you get a seat at the table? And how does a lawyer, general counsel, if they are, if they aren't on the exec co how, how do they get in the room? Would you have any advice for someone in that, that position?
Jayne Bowie (19:32):
Yeah, I mean I was very fortunate that the, my predecessor was already on and, and his predecessor before that was already on the exec committee and sort of the company secretary to the board. And again, I think we are fortunate. I'm gonna say that I think we have quite a mature level of in-house legal provision because we're, we are very much part of the team, you know, in terms of liaising with commercial and finance and making decisions. We're very sort of integrated into the business and very well received, but we are more akin to being like a, a partner. We're not a sort of standalone function. That's the puts up the red flag every time we sort of work with everybody to find solutions and, and to, to work with them in, in working through issues to help resolve them.
Jayne Bowie (20:22):
So I think and again, I think it probably comes back to that that skills basis is that, you know, you, you are not sitting there to sort of say no to things. And, and just to say, you can do this, or you can't do that. You're actually there to give a voice in terms of problem solving or to give your analytical views on things. And a lot of the issues that, that come up, you know, the, the exec and the board, you know, don't have a huge amount of backgrounds on either. So, latterly we've been talking about our, our ESG agenda and our plan and, and, and, and how we take that forwards. You know, and these are all areas that we've been developing over the years. You know, we've been looking our mental issues, our social campaign, our people culture has been a, a huge focus for our, our CEO over the last two years, really making huge changes in, in improvements in sort of that side of our organization.
Jayne Bowie (21:23):
And I think so when we look back is looking well, actually, we've, we've actually been doing loads of this already. We just haven't formally embedded it into the sort of a, a plan or like how to monitor it against our shelves, et cetera. But obviously then taking, you know, the cumulative experience, if that group of people is, is vast and then taking that together with knowing when in the external expertise and help you know, is, is really useful. But coming back to the original question, I think it's, you know, it comes back to that sort of perennial question of asking you, well, ‘how do you demonstrate legal value’? And, and actually, it's not just about answering the legal question, it's about taking those wider skills and sort of helping, advising, but also part obviously of the decision making.
Scott Brown (22:11):
Yeah, yeah. Understand.
I think it's a challenge for people that are, it's an uphill challenge, if, if you're not, if you're viewed in a certain way in, in an organization and legals put into that side Side function.
Jayne Bowie (22:29):
Yeah, but it, but it's hard, isn't it? Because we are, we are such a regulated legal world, even if you're not in a regulated industry per se. There's still so many issues that, that the exec and the board have to consider that are that do relate to the law, that do relate to policy that, that do relate to regulation. And if you don't have somebody on, on standby to sort of give the right steer or to say, well, actually we need to consider X, Y, and Z. I'll take that away and come back next time. You know, then there's a danger that you go off in the wrong tangent, I think, as business. And then you sort of have to backtrack and you've wasted sort of time and money in doing so. So I think, I think given our sort of, yeah, especially with governance becoming a much bigger issue, I think for all companies going forwards and certainly in, in our industry with public services, being a huge area of our work and the think that that's sort that governance angle increasingly becoming more and more important as well.
Jayne Bowie (23:35):
I think there's definitely a good reason to have some legal expertise on the, on the exec.
Scott Brown (23:41):
Yeah. Excellent. Also as a female leader and a female member of the exec co I know Amey's board and Executive Committee is quite well balanced and gender, gender balance there.
Jayne Bowie (23:57):
Yeah. We are. We've CEO and Amanda Fisher is has been in place for a couple years. And, and prior to that, she, as an NMD of one of the business units our Group Director of Communications is a lady as well and myself. So we have three members of the exec our female and, and I think our, our sort of senior leadership team, so is probably better balanced than some companies. But I think obviously we are in a fairly male dominated sector.
I guess where we see slightly more females at the moment is probably through the functional roles, so law finance, for example communications probably have slightly more. We are really trying to help drive through some of the grassroots encouragement of, of more gender diversity as well as sort of ethnic multicultural diversity as well. That that's a, that's a big push for us and, and has been for some time. So we've we have quite quite few initiatives for mentoring and coaching women in Amey through their careers as well. But I think, you know, it's a really, it's a grass roots issue that we really need to encourage women into, you know, into the science is into engineering from school through to university through to, or apprenticeship programs, for example and so on, but it is it's improving. It's definitely improving.
Scott Brown (25:38):
Yeah, that's good. Good to hear.
Just away from the lessons for, for a moment, you were saying you’re half Japanese and your, your grandmothers from descent of Samurais? Tell me a bit more about that. <Laugh>
Jayne Bowie (26:07):
Yeah. Yes. My mother's Japanese and my father is English and my grandmother on, on my mother's side was apparently - I say apparently was a, was a samurai descent. But it was all to do with <laugh> a bloodline. And when she married my grandfather that cut the tie because he wasn't. So I right. I, I was born in bread in the UK and I, and I taught English in Japan for a year after university. And and actually that was the first time I'd actually gone to Japan. And and it was one of the first things when my cousins would say, ‘do you know that our, our grandmother, you know, is, was samurai’, you know, we're really strong. And I'm like, ‘oh my gosh. Okay. That's pretty amazing’. So yeah, a small, unique guy, perhaps not many people know
Scott Brown (26:58):
That is good. If there's ever a, if there's ever a legal version of who do you think you are program that's on with the track? Everyone's everyone's ancestry, it'd be I'm sure. That would be interesting. <Laugh> And what are your interests outside of outside of work, if you can, class work is an interest?
Jayne Bowie (27:19):
<Laugh> yeah, no outside of work. I love doing, yeah, lots of things outside of work. But yeah, particularly music and sports and cooking - they're probably my three main sort of passions outside of work. So yeah, I love to cook when I have time and savory and baking find it quite relaxing actually when I get the time to do that and music - pop and classical from my sort of early, early years when I was my Japanese mother made us learn the violin and piano from very young at age. So have quite an appreciation for classical music as well. And sports actually is probably my, my big thing, but that's probably quite similar to a lot of people in terms of having that excuse to get outside and have some fresh air and that mental release.
Scott Brown (28:15):
What's your sport, what's your sport?
Jayne Bowie (28:18):
So I play netball actually every week and and I, and I like to run as well, so yeah, just an excuse to get outside.
Scott Brown (28:29):
Yeah. I think team sports are great for, like you, you mentioned in your first lesson about like teamwork and yeah, I think the stuff you learn from an early age is as a playing playing team sports is, is great.
Jayne Bowie (28:44):
Yeah, no, I,
Scott Brown (28:45):
Jayne Bowie (28:46):
Definitely, definitely agree with that. And I think in you know, I'm, I'm lucky I live in London and they have you know, recreational sports leaves for so many different sports for people. And it's fantastic, because you can sign up as an individual and to join the team if you don't know where to start and it's, you know, and it's the for on, it's not like a real serious club where you've gotta go and train at the weekend, it's, you know, it's after work and you get to meet people from lots of different backgrounds. So you're not sort of stuck with like your your smaller network of people. Like you get to meet lots of different people. And I, I think it's a really good way of making friends as well in, in, in large cities and, and keeping that enjoyment of team sports.
Scott Brown (29:31):
Back to the lessons if you could share your last lesson with me, please, that'd be great.
Jayne Bowie (29:39):
Yeah, sure. And I think this is more probably something that people just learn to do over over time throughout their career. Not necessarily just in, in law, but I think learning to be flexible and, and being able to adapt to change is, is critical. And it's especially in the business world because changes to strategy unforeseen sort of macroeconomic events as well, or things out, out with your control can, can happen all the time. And it's how you respond to those sort of, you know, thinking naturally practically and makes the, I guess in terms of how you can deliver on your, on your role.
Scott Brown (30:25):
Do you think, as a lawyer, you think that you're adaptable or do you think lawyers are too quick to pigeonhole themselves?
Jayne Bowie (30:40):
I think lawyers are known as being very inflexible <laugh> and you know, if you ask somebody in the business typically on a general question about lawyers, they’ll probably think that they're quite rigid and that the answer just, no, and <laugh>, it won't help you find a solution. And I guess a lot of that perhaps is to do with the, that, you know, the lure itself is, can be quite constraining and doesn't change very often. Yeah, so actually the advice might, might stay the same quite a while, unless it's been sort of some significant, you know, case or new piece of legislation that comes out perhaps. I'm guessing. But I think I think in the business context you learn to be flexible because people change their minds, you know commercial decisions are made relationships with clients can change.
Jayne Bowie (31:35):
You can suddenly win a brand new, you know, a new contract, all of a sudden that needs a focus needs to shift entirely very, very quickly. And again, it sort of comes back to tying in that sort of lesson two, and then take those skills that you've got to, to adapt to that change. But I think a lot of people don't like change and like to analyze the pros and cons of something before they change are probably guilty of that myself. But really, yeah, learn learning to sort of be able to adapt and, and, and just think laterally, maybe just stop for a moment and think about how this impacts you, how this impacts the wider business is very critical.
Scott Brown (32:19):
Great. Well, I I've been asking know all my guests on, on series three what they would, if they could put from their legal career or legal profession or the legal profession generally what they would Chuck into Room 101 if, if such a thing existed, what would, what would that be for you, Jayne?
Jayne Bowie (32:47):
So many things. <Laugh> yeah, I, I, I think, but what I'm going to say is probably as a sort of practical sort of hindrance to my, my job is probably some of the sort of administrative and, and bureaucracy that, that you find in a large organization that, that is a necessary evil. I think so we, we have many, many different systems a nd reporting processes and, and it is very burden and, and we frequently revisit them to work out how we can make them streamlined less repetitive, et cetera. And and it is a requirement, unfortunately through governance, but, you know, sometimes you just think, ‘oh, if I could throw all of that into the Room 101 into the bin and just make a decision and crack on we do have a lot more time on our hands to focus on the importance, what we perceive as the important stuff’. So yeah, I'd love to do that, but, but sadly, I don't think that's ever gonna happen.
Scott Brown (33:49):
<Laugh> not gonna happen any time soon. Oh, well any solutions, please answers on a postcard.
Jayne Bowie (33:54):
<Laugh> Would be appreciated!
Scott Brown (33:56):
It's been lovely. It's been lovely chatting with you, Jayne. Thank you for, thank you for joining me and, and taking the time to, to speak. It's great to hear more about your, your role your career and, and what's going on at Amey. Thank you.
Jayne Bowie (34:09):
Likewise. Thanks very much for having me, Scott, can I, can I make a final plug and say that we we, we do have a couple of vacancies in our, in our legal team at the moment, so if there are any budding lawyers are keen on, on meeting over to organizations such as ours, that perhaps they could contact your your practice. And we could take it from there.
Scott Brown (34:33):
Yeah. Please give us, give us a shout. Either myself or, or Kevin. I think it's really interesting to hear more about the infrastructure sector and give that practical application of, of the areas of law that someone could have worked within working within a business like that, which is multifaceted and a really a really great career. So been great to hear more about that and yeah, anyone, please, please do contact us or, or reach out to, to, to Jayne or someone in the team at Amey as well.
Thank you for listening to Lessons I Learned in Law. To hear more of the discussions I've had with guests on the podcast so far, please head over to heriotbrown.com/podcast. I'm Scott Brown. See you next time.