The In-house Experience: Interview with Nathan Butler, General Counsel Group Legal Function, Lloyds Banking Group
Nathan is General Counsel of the Group Legal function at Lloyds Banking Group plc, responsible for providing corporate and commercial legal services to enterprise-wide functions of the group. Prior to joining LBG, Nathan was General Counsel and a Company Secretary of National Australia Bank for 8 years, based in Melbourne, Australia. Nathan has advised Board and Group Executives on a range of strategic matters including mergers & acquisitions, equity raisings, international regulatory investigations, class actions and major litigation in the UK Supreme Court, Australian High Court and the US Supreme Court. He has transactional and regulatory experience in the United States, the UK, the Republic of Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Taiwan. He has served on the Board of Directors of NYSE-listed Great Western Bancorp, Inc and Chaired its Governance and Nominating Committee.
What one change would you make within your in-house legal team that you feel would revolutionise the way you or your team operates?
I like change to be evolutionary, not revolutionary, and I encourage it and seek it out – I think lots of small, practical changes are far more effective than a single revolutionary one. If I had to pick a favourite type of change, it would be building up a team’s capacity to adapt to change and to seek it out and thrive on it. That, and developing lawyers to recognise and capitalise on the portability and value of their commercial experience and skills.
What is your biggest challenge? What do you think is the biggest challenge for the legal profession in general?
My biggest personal challenge is deciding where to invest my time at any given minute. For the legal profession, I think a significant challenge is how to build and nurture the next generation of talent in a profession that has traditionally required deep thought and reflection within the context of a modern world that thrives on speed and pressure.
What does “adding value” mean to you? What really makes a difference?
A good lawyer can give you a technically accurate answer. A valuable lawyer understands the commercial drivers and economics, understands the broader reputational context and customer, regulatory and political impacts, and weighs up solutions balancing all those factors.
There has been a lot of discussion regarding legal project management. What does LPM mean to you?
LPM to me is part of the broader trend toward increasing efficiency: having the right amount of scarce resource spending the right amount of time on the right matters. Technology has a large role to play in addressing this challenge, but I also see traditional project management disciplines and compartmentalisation of work and resource as highly effective tools independent of technology.
How do you think the role of the GC is going to change over the next decade?
At the core of it I think the role will still be the same. The GC will still be a trusted adviser to the Board, CEO and senior executives, and will still need to be a leader, a strong and decisive voice, both for the organisation and for a team of highly trained and talented people. What will change is the technology that is available to help lawyers do their job, and the external environment will change so that a new generation of lawyers will have new tools and different experience and training. As a leader and manager a GC will need to adapt to those changes.
What is your vision for your legal team?
I’d like our team to drive for success, to be engaged, connected with the strategy and purpose of our organisation. My hope is that our people feel that they work in a great team, that they enjoy their role but are challenged by it, that they are well respected and have the energy, empowerment and support to continually seek to improve and outperform.
Where do you go to for learning and inspiration, or who inspires you?
There’s no single place. I run a business heavily dependent on people, and so I constantly try to learn from people and about people. I learn from everyday things, daily interactions, comments and experiences of colleagues and people I encounter. Books, world events, theatre, anything. I tend to be inspired by people with courage who achieve great things in the face of adversity – unassuming people who do the unexpected.
What key skills do you look for in your team members?
These shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, given the vision I have for the team. I look for people who can relate well with others, who have energy, drive, enthusiasm and passion. I expect a legal team to be highly technically competent, but there needs to be something more. I think a genuine care for people and a values-driven desire to do the right thing are highly valuable, especially if they come with pragmatism and commerciality.
What innovation could you not do without on a daily basis?
A smart phone – I use it to stay in touch with family, read my emails, research the internet and find wherever it is in the city that I’m supposed to be next. It’s attached to me.
What innovation would you most like to see that would make your day better?
Without doubt a teleporter: to be able to spend less time travelling between all those places I either need or want to be.
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