Thomson Reuters Practical Law, interviewed Darren Heath about his role as solicitor and in-house legal adviser at the charity Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). It explores Darren’s route into being an in-house chapter 13 lawyer and the particular challenges and benefits of being in-house at a charity. This disconnect has come at a cost, including the avoidance of issues, unnecessary red tape and costs, as well as harm to our work and reputation.
What does the law entail? A statutory requirement for all contracts to be enforceable under civil law unless the in-house group has taken steps to ensure they are not so. Without judicial intervention the law ultimately is there for the purposes of making decisions about the exercise of powers, effectively determining the outcomes of their actions. In-house legal responsibility Although the law is not seen as a force, it has a very important impact on how a business operates andndash; the decision-making process, organisation style, ethical framework and process and direction of the company. The role of the in-house legal adviser, which had traditionally been caretaker, has become a critical part of the organisation’s strategy and vision, alongside academic skills. It has been a real evolution of how we work and an extension of the work carried out by our in-house team.
Darren Heath said it is understandable when conflicts of interest occur as employers are restricted by the responsibilities of the profession to act for their client. However, he believes their hand-holding tends to be leading the client down the garden path rather than guiding them the right way. Darren looks to bridge the cultural gap between the roles that the law stands for in the industry and the reality of the working life of in-house lawyers. He stresses that the true value of in-house law is embedded in providing the required services and making sure the client delivers on the service provided. “You can’t go for the fancy clothes, the celebrity clients or the fuss over what you do. It’s the work that has to be delivered.” Darren says that being an in-house lawyer for a charity is a challenging role that requires a creative mind. “It is about playing in a space that has almost no precedent.” He stresses that the true value of in-house law is embedded in providing the required services and making sure the client delivers on the service provided. “This industry is littered with failures. There are no precedents for it and so the profession still has to find a model that works.” The law appears to be on a never-ending march towards an ever-increasing avalanche of complexity, yet even in a climate of increasing demand, the law appears to have become deeply disconnected from the requirements of our day-to-day working lives. We begin and end the working day reliant on the technical knowledge of people whose minds are not in tune with the world we try to create.