Lessons I Learned in Law

Jonny Parker on developing outside interests to make you a better lawyer

November 17, 2022 Heriot Brown Season 4 Episode 4
Jonny Parker on developing outside interests to make you a better lawyer
Lessons I Learned in Law
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Lessons I Learned in Law
Jonny Parker on developing outside interests to make you a better lawyer
Nov 17, 2022 Season 4 Episode 4
Heriot Brown

In this episode of Lessons I Learned in Law Scott Brown speaks to Jonny Parker, Legal Counsel at what3words. Jonny trained at international law firm Taylor Wessing and is also the co-founder of a challenger beer brand - YABBA which launched in May 2021.

Jonny shares some of the lessons he learned in law including:

·      The ‘right time’ might not be the right time for you. You can deviate from the traditional routes through legal training to explore different options and find what works best for you.

·      Appreciate the value of your passions and outside interests, in terms of how they can make you a better person and a better lawyer.

·      Don’t get bogged down in the finishing touches. Sometimes that extra time to make a project ‘perfect’ can be too costly and inefficient. 

Jonny also reveals that his favourite pastime is surfing, and explains how he finds time for that in and around a demanding career in law. He also talks through the work that went into launching his beer brand. 


Presented by Scott Brown of Heriot Brown Legal Recruitment

Follow Heriot Brown:

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Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of Lessons I Learned in Law Scott Brown speaks to Jonny Parker, Legal Counsel at what3words. Jonny trained at international law firm Taylor Wessing and is also the co-founder of a challenger beer brand - YABBA which launched in May 2021.

Jonny shares some of the lessons he learned in law including:

·      The ‘right time’ might not be the right time for you. You can deviate from the traditional routes through legal training to explore different options and find what works best for you.

·      Appreciate the value of your passions and outside interests, in terms of how they can make you a better person and a better lawyer.

·      Don’t get bogged down in the finishing touches. Sometimes that extra time to make a project ‘perfect’ can be too costly and inefficient. 

Jonny also reveals that his favourite pastime is surfing, and explains how he finds time for that in and around a demanding career in law. He also talks through the work that went into launching his beer brand. 


Presented by Scott Brown of Heriot Brown Legal Recruitment

Follow Heriot Brown:

Twitter | LinkedInFacebook | Instagram

Scott Brown  (0:02)

Hi, I'm Scott Brown, and this is Lessons I Learned in Law, a podcast brought to you by Heriot Brown In-House Legal Recruitment. We are specialists in placing lawyers in fulfilling careers in-house. On each episode, I'm fortunate to be joined by a leading legal professional as they share their top three lessons that they've learned during their career so far. We hope that these give you an insight in the direction that you could take in your career, and you finish each episode feeling inspired and with a refound love for what lawyers can achieve. My guest today is Jonny Parker, welcome to Lessons I Learned in Law, Jonny.


Jonny Parker  (0:44)  

Thank you for inviting me and having me on, Scott.


Scott Brown  (0:47)  

Thanks for joining me today. A brief overview, Jonny trained at international law firm, Taylor Wessing, before he moved in-house to technology start-up, What Three Words, he's also - which I'm very excited about learning a bit more about - he's co-founder of a challenger beer brand called Yabba, which he launched in May 2021. So for a number of reasons, I'm very excited. I'm disappointed that it's a bit too early in the day to be having this chat over a cold beer. But we'll jump in Jonny, If you don't mind. If you could kick off with lesson one, please.


Jonny Parker  (1:21)  

So my first lesson is the right time, in sort of parenthesis, might not be the right time for you. This is something that sort of, at a junior stage in my career has come up a few times. And I think it can be a bit overwhelming almost, if I was just to sort of dive straight into it. I think traditionally, there's a very traditional route into law. So you go to university, you study, you apply for your training contract. In your second year, ideally, you go straight into law school after graduating, and then from there, it's sort of all laid out for you in nice sort of incremental blocks of increasing work. I don't want to sort of tarnish that, because I think that does work very well for some people and has worked for years. But I think it also alienates a lot of people. So if you either can't afford or choose not to go to university, or if you don't get a training contract offer when you would sort of expect to, it can leave you feeling a bit lost. So I think what I would have wanted to have been told at that time was, if you either don't go to university, or you don't get a training contract lined up for that exact time, it's not the end of the world, really.


Scott Brown  (2:26)  

Yeah, I think it's great advice. It's something that you're always, through stages of your career, looking at other people like... I don't know if you found that within the studying. Law, it is very much that conveyor belt that you're speaking about, and the next step, and the next step, and the next step. When did you feel comfortable? Or have there been times where you haven't gone along with the flow?


Jonny Parker  (2:50)  

Yeah, I guess I started on quite a traditional route. So I sort of went and studied law at Exeter. And then I remember sort of partly from my second year, everyone started applying for training contracts. And I felt like I hadn't really figured out what kind of... I knew I wanted to go into law. And I knew I was going to follow the training contract route, I hadn't figured out what kind of firm I wanted to be at, or what was sort of interest and what I wear at work well. So I basically took a year to think about that. And I started playing in my third year as well, instead, sorry, and I think at that time, when you were playing, it says sort of, are there any gaps in your, whatever? Time so far? And if so, can you explain them and I was already thinking from that, oh, God, have I missed the year. Now, the reason for why I did that, as well as wanting to think it through as I wanted to sort of take some time out after university and sort of do some paralegal and to get some practical experience as opposed to just studying but also sort of travel and going experience all these different cultures and kind of just figure out where I thought I'd work best and sort of backup a bit of those interests with some practical experience. So that worked really well for me, because when it actually came round to applying a year later, I think I did better in the training contract process than I would have done. And when I came around to actually start in the training contract, I'd had like six to nine months, working in a law firm. And then also all of these sort of experiences that shape you from sort of a personal development perspective as well like or to travelling and meeting new people.


Scott Brown  (4:24)  

Yeah, absolutely. Which was no or like, you look back on it, and you don't have that many opportunities during your post university life to take those pauses and get those experiences and they're so valuable that you said in terms of other skills. So where did you get travelling to after uni?


Jonny Parker  (4:41)  

I went to Indonesia, I'm a big sort of surfers my main interests so I kind of planned the whole itinerary based around that. So I was in Indonesia for a while was in Sri Lanka. I lived in Australia for a little bit, but basically sort of worked was fortunate enough to get some paralegal Ling work beforehand for us today. I live in at home to sort of fund all of that, and then worked a bit on when I was living in Australia as well. And just sort of, although that is still quite a traditional route, that sort of university, and then the gap year, and so on, I think it just kind of opened my eyes, but to there are different routes into law. If you haven't gotten to university, for example, there was paralegals who I was working with who were going through the sort of internal qualification process there. And being made up to lawyers, there was sort of apprentices that were coming in straight from school, and it sort of opened my eyes to Hey, you don't have to have gone to university, you don't have to if got a training contract, and your second year at a top law firm that's hard enough to do in the first place. There are other opportunities available to you.


Scott Brown  (5:46)  

Yeah. And do you think like looking back on that you're sort of you go into and you're starting your training contract a bit more with your eyes open as to what it is in perhaps, I guess, more solidified. And that's, that's where you want to go in your career?


Jonny Parker  (5:59)  

I think so I think I'd kind of fought for a bit more about these are the kind of departments that would really help me, I'd also just had the opportunity to meet people during that time paralegals who were kind of mentors for me as well, one of which in particular helped me a lot when I was sort of going through the training contract process and saying, Oh, these are the seats I'm thinking about doing to drink, I would value from doing a more sort of prod see, and things like that people who are sort of on your side and maybe external from where you're currently working at the time who can lend that sort of independent, impartial advice? So yeah, it definitely helped me I guess the second timing point, which was slightly unconventional was when I qualified at Taylor lessening, I did one year and then I moved into an in house role, which is where I am now. And I remember having a similar thought process at the time, I remember thinking, Oh, everything I've read says sort of two years minimum three years, I do leave private practice. Am I going too early? What am I? What if I've made the wrong move and can't come back? And it's, it's scary at that time. And I remember I spoke to an ex-partner about it and said, Do you think good luck, I think it's the right company. I've made sure there's enough sort of personal development and education around me and people who can support me, but what if it isn't the right time, and so on. And I've got that sort of age old piece of advice of, well, when the when the bus comes, if you're certain it's the right bus. Even if the timing is not right for you, sometimes you just have to get on it. And it sounds very cliche, but it really worked out for me, and now sort of 10 months into that I've got my feet under the desk a bit more. It's just been a really good decision for me personally.


Scott Brown  (7:41) 

Great advice from that partner. At what point did you think I'm going to be an in house lawyer, I'm going to make that move at some point in time.


Jonny Parker  (7:49)  

The kind of person I am I'm quite hyperactive, not but the longest attention span. So I think the specialist route of becoming sort of a really specialist private practice lawyer was never massively going to be my path. I was interested in the in house opportunities. And I did a comment during my training contract. Amazon, which was right, it was 2020 March. So there's literally pandemic hit one week in their lovely Liverpool Street offices, and then the rest of the time remote. But that kind of solidified that. Yeah, I'd like to go work in house. I think everything get solidified was I was more interested in the start-up side of things I wanted to go somewhere where it felt like I was really close to the detail on all of these different things can meet everyone can make a practical difference. But I think the balance there was I don't want to go somewhere this early in my career where I'm the only lawyer or where there's not really an established legal function, because I wouldn't have in my eyes enough experience to just build that outright study to like learn the role of a lot of this year has been learning the role of an in house lawyer versus a private practice lawyer as opposed to necessarily the technical skills training.


Scott Brown  (9:01)  

Yeah, good. Surfing then. So how often do you get surfing? You live in central London? How often do you go? Do you get surfing,


Jonny Parker  (9:11)  

there's not a lot of surfing in Brixton, right. But the sort of a lot of my holidays, a lot of my travel gets sort of pushed that way. We've got a great perk at work through ads, which is we have six weeks a year where you can go and work remotely as long as the sort of time zones sort of work with what you're doing so I'm not convinced I could go over to like Australia again for example, but South Africa similar time so um, so I pretty much use all of that to go and work and live in places where there's a good surf scene and bit of a different work environment. So I've been in Ireland, West Coast Ireland for three or four weeks this year, and down in Cornwall, maybe I'll be a bit more into Europe or a bit further flung next year, but I wanted to sort of be close to home this time in case something went wrong.


Scott Brown  (9:59)  

Yeah, I get that. Cold water training as well. Yeah. Lesson two, share that with me.


Jonny Parker  (10:12)  

Yeah, I guess it's kind of neat. It's appreciate the value of your passions and your outside interests based in terms of how they can make you better as a lawyer, but also as a person into a colleague to people.


Scott Brown  (10:25)  

See your outside interests being surfing? Yeah. And other interests outside of that,


Jonny Parker  (10:31)  

I think, yeah, there's that sort of surface level interests and things like surfing and just got really into triathlons and the sort of physical and mental wellbeing side of things, I guess a big one, for me in this year is Yabba. So one of my sort of outside interests, like you said earlier on, was I run a beer start-up company with one of my friends from University. And I think it's a bit unconventional, in law, to be running a sort of revenue generating business like that, alongside. I came across quite a few lawyers who were doing sort of volunteering, or were doing mentoring and things like that. But running a business at the same time, I didn't encounter that many lawyers that were doing that. And I think, as well as sort of the enjoyment of it, it's a big creative outlet for me, like the brand and the direction, individual identity is a big, creative outlet. But just experience running a start-up and those challenges and how hard it is, have definitely made me a lot better and a lot able to understand and connect with people across what three words, so much more. There's so many similarities of like, when we started out with Yabba, one of our big things was, although there's going to be a lot of learning on the job of figuring out whilst we're doing it, we want to sort of, we want to build everything with a sort of scalable mentality. So it's kind of the opposite of kind of fake it till you make it, it's kind of like, over bake it until you make it right early on. So like the fulfilment process. And when we just started out, a lot of people started businesses, they're sort of shipping things out of their garage, and they're sort of constantly we decided that we were going to pay a bit more money and having like, third party fulfilment providers, that made a big difference, because it meant early on when people were ordering, and they were receiving orders. And so and it was a really smooth, professional experience. And I think that influences how people interact with your brand, and they see your brand. And it becomes way more than just this, oh, my friends set this up. It's a completely independent offering that people who don't know you, for example, can go and feel like they're ordering from a proper beer company. And that's something very similar here. So what three words like all of the things that we work on, is like, as well as that, oh, what does this contract mean? How can we change these templates? It's how can we improve these processes? So less people having to do manual work? Going down the line? How can we make this more efficient? And that's what I'm learning as sort of a quite a big part of our role is how can we empower the business to take a lot of their legal actions themselves, while still streamlining those sort of risks? To us? where needed,


Scott Brown  (13:16)  

that six months at Amazon must have been good for the insights into the logistics and fulfilment piece?


Jonny Parker  (13:22)  

Yeah, it is, it is the friend and the friend I do have is kind of more into that side of things. He's a, again, a consultant, basically. So he does a lot of like route to market and transformation and other things that I don't understand as well. So we sort of complement each other well. But it's, there's definitely been a lot of learnings in there, which mean that I can now understand, for example, aside from what their legal challenges are, but just what people in like marketing, for example, or growth would be doing on a day to day and what are their sort of main activity so that then we have context when we're working with them as


Scott Brown  (14:00)  

nice, what was the inspiration behind that then getting into in launching that beer brand.


Jonny Parker  (14:06)  

So like I say, we're friends from university, and we, when we were both living in Australia, after university, we were sort of doing quite a lot of Matt, who I dealt with was playing a lot of sport, I was doing a lot of surfing, running, and we're living quite active lifestyles, and I think Australia, largely because of the weather, but has a really active lifestyle, generally on those coastal towns and cities. So a lot of people the way that they were consuming sort of alcohol matches that. So you have one of those sort of hard seltzers and a lower calorie, sparkling water without calling it you have a lot of those sort of lighter beers that don't bog people down as much and it just paired with our lifestyle as well. So then when we came back to England, there was only a couple of mainstream offerings like your Bud Lights, for example, and we personally didn't enjoy drinking those. We sort of did a bit of market research asked a lot of people and some surveys and that was sort of confirmed other people didn't. And they felt the same. And then we just kept getting green light after green light. And before we knew it, we were sort of contacting breweries and making our sort of first batch and building the brand. And it all kind of happened rather sort of accidentally from, can I get stuck in consumer mindset of like, we can't buy the best that we want. We're just gonna make it ourselves


Scott Brown  (15:20)

cool. Most especially as good market research. What's been the biggest challenge in that since its launch?


Jonny Parker  (15:27)  

I think the timing is hard. I think we launched out of the pandemic, and I think that was one of the Silver Linings for us was we had the time and we had the sort of savings from that to be able to do it. I think otherwise, people might not have had as much sort of opportunity to balancing sort of socialise, or have responsibilities with work and being an office a lot. And also, just generally, the last few years have been obviously so hard on the hospitality industry. So we see price increases, we see, stock is going out of business. So it's kind of managing all of that and learning about that industry. Because numerous have a background in beer. So it's set up really well from a company perspective and finance and legal, we've got the trademarks, we've got the companies. It was the learning or getting that fear experience and sort of speaking to as many people as we can to learn that, and knowing where we had sort of limitations ourselves.


Scott Brown  (16:21)  

How do you balance it with work? How do you both with full time jobs?


Jonny Parker  (16:25)  

Yeah, he was I mean, that was one of the reasons for moving slightly earlier as well was SS for a freeing up a bit of time to do that. But generally, I'm, like I say I'm quite sort of shorter attention span. So I do it do well, with that variety of having. Now I'm exercising now I'm doing this now I'm doing work and I'm quite sort of extroverted person so that I kind of recharge during those times, I need a little bit less downtime then. And others might, which helps. I think a lot of people from the outside looking at it, wow, that's such a great thing. Because it is a massive commitment, we do spend a lot of time doing it has taken years to get to, we worked on it for pretty much a year and a half before it even launched. And before we've made our first beer, don't underestimate the time that needs to go in.


Scott Brown  (17:18)  

We'll move on to lesson three.


Jonny Parker  (17:20)  

Yeah, lesson three, this is one from my time on common Amazon, this really stuck with me, which is don't get bogged down in the finishing touches. This is one that's quite specific to me, but I think will be applicable to other people as well. So the risk profile is obviously different for every business and everywhere where you are, I think law, at least of people I've encountered, it was suits, quite a lot of perfectionist type people, the real attention to detail, the real sort of 100% Sure dot, the dot, the i's cross the T's is like classic legal phrases, but that's me, I have to get everything really, really perfect. When I was at Amazon, that was the first time that I'd experienced a real sort of opposite to that. So they have this real mentality there of speed has a real monetary value. And the idea was if you get a certain workstream to 85 90%, that final 10% or 15% of work takes a disproportionate amount of time compared to the rest of the actual task. And that can that can just add quite a lot of lag to the process, which could when your time could otherwise be spent doing other things which might have sort of more risk to the business or just generally ticking through your to do list. Yeah, it's a big one the big one that stuck with me because I was so bad at that. And I found when I changed my mentality on it, although it's a bit sort of scary at first I found it made me so much more efficient. And I think I think it also just reflects well on you particularly as an in house lawyer I think about what of what two people complement the legal team at what three words when I was coming into it, they were saying that pragmatic, they're fast, they're responsive, but they sort of listened to us and they're the kind of people I want to work with a lot of those are quite soft skill based arguably and a bit less kind of, Oh, I love their real expertise on Chinese data protection they need as well but it might not be as an apparent love for them so it's played a big role for me.


Scott Brown  (19:22)  

Yeah, so they need to know you've got it you've got it covered but you're enabling them to meet the business needs right and get the get the commercial context it sounds like I've heard I've heard someone I've heard someone remember who it was Amazon actually or x Amazon that said Don't let one of the is done if it was their freezer if it was their own personal phrase but was don't make perfect get in the way of done like just getting something getting something done and moving on. Yeah, like that. Was that so drilled in at Amazon knows how does I'm always interested in like culture and like values like that. Like how's it How does it weave into someone come And then externally for a comment, how was it communicated to you?


Jonny Parker  (20:04)  

Yeah, that was that was one of the biggest things was one of their biggest sort of legal values, I guess. You've got the company values, which are separate from what they're looking for from the legal team. But it's kind of enshrined in a lot of the culture there. So there's a lot less of meetings unless something really requires a meetings, there's a lot of quick short emails, I remember being told early on, don't be offended by anyone's sort of blunt tone. It's just people being straight today. The fact and it's one of those things, it's is I found it massively applicable to running Yabba as well. Because when something's your own, and it's your own business, you want to do everything perfectly. And there's that moment of when it's good enough to push out into the world. And, yeah, I found that me and Matt were both over engineering and sort of micromanaging and it was taking up so much time. But it's that kind of trust, in your experience of knowing when done is. And knowing that Dan actually is, like you say, have a good enough standard as well. You shouldn't just be willy nilly sending everything out.


Scott Brown  (21:11)

Yeah, yeah. And that's where the private practice or legal training, education comes in, right? You're constantly redlined in your drafts and iterations of drafts, etc, to get it perfect. And that's why someone's paying Taylor Wessing or whichever law firm, it might be the money that they pay them for reviews or contracts. But yeah, it's the I guess, meeting the commercial objectives is great. I've been asking everyone on the podcast in this series, what lesson that they've learned in law or elsewhere, in their career or life that they maybe wish that they hadn't learned looking back on it, in hindsight.


Jonny Parker  (21:52)  

I think a big a big one for me, is probably on that kind of wellbeing spaces know when you've not given yourself enough support to be able to help other people. So if you're constantly trying to sort of work really, really hard around the clock and trying to sort of, you're an ambitious person, you're trying to achieve certain things, if you haven't been given yourself time to sleep and exercise and so on, as you as you need, then you're not gonna be able to perform how you want to perform in that other area anyway. So even if you don't want to spend your time doing it, it's bit of a necessary thing. You can't pour from an empty cup as well, I keep coming out and they all kind of stick with me.


Scott Brown  (22:44)

Good. I was, I was on a TV programme, when I was a student called Take on the Takeaway on BBC. Car crash. And at one point I came out with a similar metaphor. Well, not to downplay yours. That knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, and wisdom’s knowing not to put it in a fruit salad. And that has stuck with me. Mates bring it up all the time. So, when's the next triathlon then? How's the training going?


Jonny Parker  (23:15)

Yeah, I did my first one in August this year. So I said, at the start of the year, I just moved into what three words and so I've got a bit more time now doing the APA stuff, but maybe I should start prioritising my health and fitness a bit more. So I ran a half marathon in May, and I decided that I didn't really like running enough to only be running. I kind of preferred so I was like, Oh, what about this idea of triathlon? Like I already said, swimming should hopefully, come to me. And I know I love the water. I'm already cycling to work all the time, pick it up. I decided to do it a bit late, I haven't given myself enough time to really prepare for it. I did it. I did a London one in the middle of August. And it went well. And I I find I enjoyed it a lot more. But it's kind of head down over winter and try and do some more at the start of sort of spring next year when I know a bit more about it as opposed to people were asking me what's your transition plan, and I didn't really know what they're talking about changed and get on my bike. bigger problems at that point. The game changed.


Scott Brown  (24:16)

Yeah. Nice. All right. Well, good luck. Good luck with it when it comes around. Thank you for chatting with me today. Really, really enjoyed that. And great to hear more about Yabba, but if people wanted to follow Yabba or to learn more about the product, how do they do that?


Jonny Parker  (24:31)

Yeah, so we've got a website. Yabbabeer.co.uk, and we're on Instagram, Yabba Beer, or they could just drop me an email. I'm on Jonny@yabbabeer.co.uk.


Scott Brown  (24:43) 

Cheers, Jonny great chatting to you today. That was that was Jonny Parker. What a cool guy, Legal Counsel at What Three Words and Co-Founder of challenger beer brand, Yabba.

Some great lessons in there for lawyers of all levels but really applicable to those early in your legal career. Yeah, and those exploring moves into the profession, some some great sound bites in his first couple of lessons. I'm always really excited also to hear about people that are applying what they've learned in law and applying that in the context of their business pursuits outside of law. So it was really fascinating to hear his insights into his journey in founding and running Yabba.

As well as any good host would, as you might expect, I did my research coming into this episode recording and I can definitely vouch that Yabba beer is absolutely delicious in all quantities, all shapes and sizes, so head over there and support a fellow lawyer and get behind the brand!

Now if you've enjoyed that conversation with Jonny, then why not check out some of the earlier episodes from seasons gone by and see these three I was joined by Richard Mabey, who is CEO of contract automation platform, Juro, and he spoke about the need to keep it simple whilst also having a love for detail. So check out that episode. You can search for that episode on Apple podcast, Spotify, and all other great listening platforms are head over to heriotbrown.com/podcast. And remember, whilst you're there, be a good consumer and hit the subscribe button so you don't miss out on future episodes. And while you're at it, why not leave us a star rating, five stars please review which really helps us out. 

If you've got any feedback or you'd like to appear on the podcast or suggest someone who I could chat with then please drop me a line scott@heriotbrown.com I'm all yours or come and connect with me or Heriot Brown on LinkedIn. See you next time.