General Counsel of NOW FINANCE, Kaajal Fox on the growth phase, some memorable experiences as an articled clerk and home-schooling during lockdown.
Why in house?
Working in house means that I am “more than just a lawyer” – I am a trusted adviser who has a seat at the decision-making table and at the board. Together with the other C-suites, I consider strategy, enterprise risk, high value transactions, M&A and other exciting ventures.
Some say that an in house lawyer is the “GP of the legal world”, and this is entirely accurate: in private practice, you might specialise in a particular field but an in house lawyer must also be able to consider other aspects such as employment law, IP, contract law, disputes, insolvency, privacy, human resources and everything else in between. I had a magnificent grounding in private practice where I worked for many years serving a variety of large clients. That gave me a nice edge in being able to quickly pivot my thinking from one issue to the next, which has served me well in house.
Tell us about what you’re up to at the moment?
Juggling balls working from home!
I am the General Counsel for NOW FINANCE, which is a provider of consumer credit personal loans. I’m ultimately responsible for all the legal, compliance and enterprise risk aspects of the business. Given consumer credit is highly regulated, my practice is very busy. Fortunately, I have a team of very experienced and highly respected legal and compliance professionals, so I feel thoroughly supported.
The business is in a growth phase which means that there is much to be done on both the b-c and b-b perspectives. B-c activities require a detailed understanding of all laws relating to consumer credit and engagement with a number of third parties such as regulators, industry bodies and the like. From a b-b perspective, this requires an entirely different approach as it relates to aspects such as funding, M&A, securitisation and the like.
Certainly, my mobile phone is getting a great workout as is the Zoom app on the laptop (and the door on my fridge!). In some ways working from home feels like a luxury, but in other ways I feel like I am working more than I ever have.
Most memorable moments in law?
Looking back on my career, many moments stand out as being unforgettable. Like the time when I was an articled clerk and accidentally faxed internal (and very confidential!) notes on a case to the other party. Or the time when I was asked to quickly appear at the County Court for a hearing as a first year lawyer with NO background on the matter nor any experience in appearances. Suffice to say I have certainly learnt to think very quickly on my feet.
But the one moment which will always stand out for me was when I compiled and mixed a 4 minute “music parody” video on the legal team at GE where I used to work. That video won a global competition which was being run at GE at that time and it placed the Australian legal team centre stage because it showed that serious lawyers could also have a whole load of fun at the same time.
How has COVID-19 Changed the way you work?
Being an entirely social person, I am definitely missing that social connection we have in the office. It’s very hard to replicate that relationship and banter remotely. We’ve had to improvise – we now have “social” Zoom calls where we show off our cats and dogs and kids and talk about what we’ll be having for dinner.
I’ve had to be disciplined about taking breaks since COVID was introduced. I now take forced breaks where I will schedule in time for a run during the day or cook a lovely meal for the evening. Sometimes I surprise the kids at school and walk home with them – a luxury I didn’t have pre-COVID.
Working from home yes or no?
Yes and no. It is nice to work from home occasionally, but I’m definitely someone who thrives on working amongst other people in an office environment.
Something that’s got you through the past 12 weeks?
Definitely running. I run every day except for Mondays and Fridays and the euphoria one feels after a run is difficult to top. Although, I fell over while running last week and dislocated my nose, so I think I’ll be taking a break from running for a short while.
Also, having had the kids home schooling for quite a few weeks was incredible – it was so lovely to have had the opportunity to be so involved in their education. Knowing that it was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience made me feel very grateful for everything that I have and appreciate my time working from home.