Legal Voices: Alicia Chantrey, Associate General Counsel

Learn who your fellow community members are and share in their journeys.

The Centre for Legal Leadership

Interviews: Legal Voices Series on 03/06/24

We spoke to Alicia Chantrey who has over 25 years of legal expertise working in the world of intellectual property. 

Starting her career at Hogan Lovells, Alicia discovered her interest in IP and moved in-house as a junior lawyer to GSK where she became Head of Brand Protection for the Consumer Health Division (now Haleon) before moving to Associated British Foods (ABF) as Associate General Counsel and Head of Intellectual Property.

Alicia also trained as an internal “JobsPlus” coach at GSK and more recently qualified as an Associate Certified Coach from the International Coaching Federation. She continues to coach internally at ABF and externally with not-for-profit organisations to help individuals identify their goals and reach their full potential.

So, join us as we delve into Alicia's career journey, explore the nuances between coaching and mentoring, and uncover why she's so dedicated to giving back to her community. Let's get started.

How did you get into in-house law?

I started life as a scientist before studying law and after a couple of years in private practice I realised I wasn’t particularly motivated by billing targets or being a partner in a large law firm. 

I wanted to be closer to the science and the businesses I was supporting, where I could have a greater opportunity to build lasting relationships and make an impact on projects from start to finish.

What advice would you give to someone moving in-house from private practice?

Spend time getting to know your business, the people and their priorities and be prepared for constantly shifting priorities, thinking on your feet, a lot more responsibility and a lot less supervision.

We've noticed you are in the management team for 'IP Inclusive', tell us more about it, also are you involved with any inclusion initiatives within the workplace?

IP Inclusive is an organisation originally set up by volunteers to promote and improve equality, diversity, inclusion and wellbeing across the UK’s intellectual property professions. The Management Team support the CEO and ensure transparency, accountability and control over the fantastic work done by the various communities under the IP Inclusive banner.

The ABF legal team works closely with a number of local schools supporting them with careers advice and work experience opportunities; many of us are volunteers for the Grow mentoring scheme (for aspiring individuals looking to move into law); and we are very excited to be welcoming our second cohort of solicitor apprentices in September at the very start of their qualification journey.

You are also a qualified coach, what made you decide to become one and would you recommend others do the same?

My manager at the time recognised I was getting a bit bored and encouraged me to stretch myself by taking on a non-exec role at the IP Regulator and to spend 12 months in a “development’ secondment in the business working in the GSK internal Audit & Assurance function. 

This really brought home how many other transferable strengths we develop as lawyers that can be put to practice in other roles. “Listening” to pick up both the said and unsaid is a key but often underused and underrated business (and life) skill. 

I was given the opportunity to build those muscles through training as an internal “JobsPlus” coach supporting employees on their career and leadership journeys within the organisation. 

It’s such a privilege to partner with someone and be trusted to listen to them “think’. It has been quite a journey to getting my ICF accreditation but the return on the time invested has been more than worth it.

What is the difference between coaching and mentoring?

I would describe mentoring as using your knowledge and life experiences to guide someone on their journey. Non-directive coaching is founded in the belief that individuals already have everything they need to find the best route for themselves. 
My role as coach is to walk alongside them on the journey and empower them to think it through and work it out.

What is the most rewarding aspect of coaching/what is the biggest takeaway from your coaching experiences?

Coaching gives me the opportunity to work with a huge variety of amazing individuals across different roles, cultures and life stages that I would never normally engage with in my day-to-day role. 

Like many lawyers I am a bit of a perfectionist and enjoy being “right", but I have developed a much greater appreciation for diversity of thought and approach. 

Nothing gives me greater pleasure than hearing someone else come up with a different solution to a challenge which is “perfect” for them and much better than any advice I could have given.

You lend your coaching expertise to GivingTime, how did you get involved with this organisation?

I volunteer as a pro bono coach for a number of charities and not for profit organisations that I think are doing fantastic work supporting various individuals and communities.

A particular favourite is GivingTime which is a charity offering free professional coaching to 16–18-year-old students, supporting them in the transition from full time education to the workplace. In return, the students spend time volunteering for a good cause of their own choice. 

I think I would have really valued that support at a similar time and its great fun working with the students and seeing them take pride in their volunteering and completing the targets and actions they devise for themselves.

What are your interests outside of work?

Juggling life as a lawyer, coach and parent to teenagers takes up a lot of head space and most of my time but I love to switch off playing hockey for my local club, walking the dog or swimming laps in the pool – the ultimate thinking zone for me with no distractions!

What books or TV shows would you recommend?

For anyone who is / works with / is married to / parents an introvert, I highly recommend reading “Quiet” by Susan Cain – wonderful insights on how to get the best out of this ‘superpower”. 

With my D&I hat on "The Authority Gap" by Mary Ann Sieghart is a brilliant read for anyone interested in creating a fairer society. 

For a complete giggle you can’t beat an episode of “Task Master”!

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