Neil has broad, cross-jurisdictional commercial experience within the travel, hospitality and leisure sectors. Most recently he acted as Legal Director for Carlson Wagonlit Travel’s Legal & Compliance Team and has previously held senior in-house legal positions at Millennium & Copthorne Hotels, the Monarch Travel Group and Kempinski Hotels. He is familiar with negotiating high value, multi-national services agreements, as well as cross-jurisdictional framework agreements. Here, he shares his insights on recent experiences as an Obelisk consultant.
Can you describe your work experiences through Obelisk?
My most recent role through Obelisk was working alongside the Head of Legal at a British catering company, advising a number of its food service and hospitality businesses. The experience itself was great. Lots of close interaction with the various businesses and an interesting mix of work, all whilst having the support of a fun and personable team.
What makes your expertise unique?
I think every good lawyer will have something unique to offer, based on their own experience (good and bad!). I have been lucky enough to have worked in a variety of businesses across different sectors over the years, and these experiences have helped to shape me into the lawyer (and indeed the individual) that I am today. I think a solid and up-to-date understanding of black letter law is always expected of any good lawyer. However, together with hard work, the ability to communicate clearly, concisely and whilst being sensitive to the specific, commercial needs of the business, is what makes a lawyer invaluable and (seemingly) “unique” for that business. On a lighter note, a good (and some might say, unique) sense humour has helped along the way!
What’s the most rewarding aspect of flexible working as a lawyer?
Variety of interesting work. Family is important to me, so having the ability to effectively manage my time is essential.
The most challenging?
Plate-spinning. Keeping on top of moving goals and conflicting priorities that are being driven across business. This can be a challenge which, admittedly, I am still working on. That said, if you have a good rapport with your business partners and are able to clearly and honestly communicate with them, those challenges can be less cumbersome.
What are your proudest professional and personal achievements so far?
Professional: I spent part of my career working as a lawyer for a travel and tourism business and happened to join just as that business was undergoing a number of senior leadership changes, as well as having to manage its way through various time sensitive regulatory changes. The experience presented a number of technical challenges. It also required a great deal of empathy and understanding for the very human impact that was being felt across the business, all whilst trying to get to know that business and its new faces. Whilst challenging, the experience was rewarding.
Personal: My wife and I have toddler twins. Every day feels like a personal achievement.
How do you find the right work/life balance?
I try to stay organised. Easier said than done, I realise! However, diarising certainly helps. Being self-disciplined about having that work-life balance is also essential.
What are your words of advice to other legal consultants?
Be open to new experiences. One of the great advantages of legal consultancy roles is that they can provide a platform for working within new and interesting sectors.
How do you start and end your day?
Early mornings are usually spent with the twins, changing nappies and preparing food (x2) before my wife takes over for the day. Same applies in the evenings unfortunately! I do, however, make sure that I leave my desk every lunch time to get outside and get some exercise. Our dog joins me and he is grateful for this.
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
The ability to learn, unlearn and relearn quickly is a superpower worth having. Otherwise, I would happily settle for the power of superhuman flight.