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Micah Smith, Senior Legal Counsel at Legal & General

Alumni spotlight

Micah Smith

Senior Legal Counsel at Legal & General

Before joining Eversheds Sutherland, Micah spent three years with Teach First, a training programme designed to transform education with great teachers and leaders. Dealing with the challenges of the classroom was perfect preparation for life as a lawyer, he says.

Why did you initially train as a teacher before becoming a lawyer?

I finished university unsure what I wanted to do. I was drawn to Teach First because they offered a summer training and after six weeks, you go straight into the classroom. That feeling of being thrown in at the deep end was scary but invigorating.

What skills in education have helped you in your legal career?

I taught in a challenging school and it was a tough experience, but it’s helped me to not get fazed too easily; for example, if things don’t go to plan or if I have to give a presentation. It gave me the confidence to feel more comfortable leading training sessions with clients or expressing a view with my seniors.

Those things can be daunting, especially if you’re a recent graduate or afraid of public speaking. But no client is going to be scarier than thirty teenagers on a Friday afternoon who don’t want to be there: it’s never going to be as bad as that!

You joined Eversheds Sutherland in London as a Pensions Associate. What drew you to the firm?

The Pensions team at Eversheds Sutherland is known to be one of the biggest and best in the country. I was attracted by the know-how, resources, training, and client list. I was also attracted by the team’s willingness to accommodate a request for a flexible work arrangement, which at the time (pre-pandemic) wouldn’t have been possible at most other firms.

What are the strongest memories of your time here?

I really enjoyed the social side. We had a Pensions bake off competition each year. During the pandemic there were weekly quizzes which were a nice way to get to know colleagues better. I was also involved with the firm’s London Office Choir and was delighted to participate as an alumnus at the Festive Choral Evening in December.

What was your proudest achievement with Eversheds Sutherland?

I look back with pride on our pro bono work. I would particularly mention a project with South West London Law Centres to represent people trying to access disability benefits and helping them through the appeals process. I’m grateful to Sophie White , a partner in the Employment team, who helped to launch and oversee the project.

Who had the biggest influence on your time at the firm?

This is a hard one because I was lucky to work with lots of great people who had a big influence on me. If I have to single out one name, it would be Charlotte Cartwright , a Pensions partner who joined soon after me. Aside from being one of the most impressive lawyers I’ve come across, she was a very kind mentor who I learnt a lot from.

How would you summarise your first year in an in-house role?

It’s been a real learning curve. I’ve come into the team that deals with pensions but it’s a broader role. I’ve had to skill up in other areas like data protection and non-pension products as well, such as equity release mortgages.

So much of being in-house is getting to know the business and adding value to commercial business decisions. You really need to understand the personalities, the politics, the priorities – the three ‘Ps’ if you like! – as well as the commercial and operational constraints.

How does that compare with private practice?

You’re definitely aware of these things in private practice to an extent. But now, for example, I spend most of my time talking with non-lawyers around the business. For different types of decisions you need sign-off from different people. So you need to understand decision-making processes and how you can be a useful part of them. That means there’s less of the pure black letter law that I used to do in private practice.

Did you have to adapt your communication style?

Definitely. Nobody wants legal jargon! People seem to generally want less detail than I was used to giving in private practice.

In-house, the format of the advice is also different. Almost all my advice is given in phone calls or emails. I rarely need to prepare a formal advice note or anything like that. There’s also less time to really delve deeply into something. It's much more commercially focussed.

What are your interests outside of work?

I have a two-and-a-half-year-old boy and we’re expecting a baby girl in March. That keeps me pretty busy. But I also do other things. I founded a local parkrun where I’m still the Event Director – in Sunny Hill Park in northwest London. I’ve also always had a musical background. I’m the youngest of four so the family joke is that I was only born to finish off the string quartet, but it doesn’t really work because I’m a twin!