Laura is a Practice Director at SYKE, leading our DocuSign Practice which is specialised in implementing the DocuSign Agreement cloud – DocuSign CLM, eSignature and DocuSign Insight/Analyzer. She is committed to helping clients build innovative solutions to solve business problems and deliver ROI.
Laura is based in London, UK.
Tell us about your career path and how you ended up at SYKE?
I originally applied to study Chemical Engineering at University, but when I was applying for funding I found out that I wasn’t actually entitled to Student Loans. Since I wasn’t born in the UK, I was treated as an international student; despite having lived and studied here for over 12 years!
This meant I unexpectedly had to take a gap year. During that time, I worked in retail and joined a campaign called Let Us Learn, which campaigned to give young people, who weren’t born in the UK, the right to student loans to be able to pursue further education here. That’s how I became interested in law and at that time I wrote my own appeal to the Student Loans Company following the Tigere case, and I was eventually successful in overturning the SLC’s decision.
Finally, I had managed to secure student funding. Despite being disappointed that I couldn’t go to university with all of my friends and peers, I was grateful that my situation gave me time to consider whether I actually wanted to study Chemical Engineering. I knew I wanted to solve problems but I didn’t fancy working on an oil rig or in a factory (which is typically the industries that chemical engineers go into), so I decided to change my undergraduate course to Law before starting at the University of Manchester.
Whilst at University, I took part in a vacation scheme at a Magic Circle law firm and undertook an internship with the legal team of a co-living property development company. It was here that I became really interested in the application of technology to help lawyers and legal teams. I could see the difficulties they faced; looking to keep costs down with budget cuts whilst dealing with a growing number of contracts to review, legal matters to address and fires to put out.
I remember reviewing all our loan agreements to create a database with our total debt and loan values and key contractual and payment terms. This is something that took me weeks to complete since the documents were scanned image files. I couldn’t even use basic search functionality to find key words and I thought that there must be a better and more efficient way to do this kind of work.
In my last year at UoM, I enrolled for the first-ever Legal Tech course. I’ve always been a techie at heart and that was the perfect course which combined my passion for problem solving and engineering with law. Alistair (founder and CEO of SYKE) was a lecturer on our Legal Tech course and that’s when I first heard of SYKE and loved everything that they were doing – from document automation and workflows to using AI to review contracts.
I joined SYKE in July 2019 following a relatively informal recruitment process, which consisted of one of our lecturers telling Alistair that he had to hire me, a chat with one of SYKE’s Senior Legal Engineers and a document automation task – a far cry from the gruelling application process for training contracts and vacation schemes.
What’s surprised you about working at SYKE?
How fast we’ve grown… I joined as one of the first junior legal engineers when there were around 15-20 of us in total and we have grown to over 130+ in 2 years and formed a strategic partnership with one of the leading legal ops companies in the world. It’s been incredible to watch that journey and to meet so many incredible and inspiring people along the way!
What have been your highlights of working for SYKE so far?
Prior to Covid-19, the opportunities to travel were so extensive. I was travelling to Brazil, Holland, Switzerland – all in the space of a few months! Even now that we haven’t been able to travel as much, working with people across the world of different backgrounds and cultures, along with learning about different ways of life has been truly amazing.
We even went on a SYKE ski trip, which was definitely one of the highlights from working at SYKE and a great opportunity to build relationships with our team.
I also think the level of responsibility given at SYKE has been a huge highlight. For someone fresh out of University, it was almost strange to be working with and liaising directly with Partners at law firms and General Counsels. What I love about SYKE more so than anything else is the flat hierarchy and that it is completely meritocratic – no one cares about how old you are, where you’re from or how long you’ve been doing something for – they care about the value you bring to your clients and colleagues.
What advice would you give to someone starting out their career in Legal Tech?
Be fearless. This was the motto of the CEO of my previous company, and it always stuck with me.
Everyone will make mistakes and anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. It might sound cliché, but I think it’s so much more important to be able to pick yourself back up; it will allow you to become much more resilient and stronger in the long run.