This article is the first in a new series which will showcase one of our consultants, and walk through what they do for clients with Johnson Hana.
Each will feature a brief biography of the consultant and a Q&A, where we discuss what they’re working on at the moment.
First up is Gerardine Stack, who is currently a Legal Consultant with Johnson Hana and working with a leading Irish-American global payments company as an External Commercial Counsel.
About Gerardine Stack
Gerardine is a highly respected corporate lawyer with over 17 years’ experience, both in-house and in private practice. She has extensive experience of leading the legal function for international and multi-product businesses. As she is committed to diversity and inclusion, she has led on numerous gender-based initiatives in the workplace.
After graduating from the University of Limerick in 2003 with a First Class LLB, Gerardine completed a traineeship with leading private practice firm Arthur Cox, before working there as an Associate Solicitor for three years.
Following this, Gerardine spent almost 11 years with Fintech giant, Fexco, including three years as Chief Governance Officer in their Payments & FX Division. Gerardine then moved to Revolut, working as Head of Legal in Ireland, as Revolut expanded rapidly. During this time, Gerardine also completed an MBA with Henley Business School.
In July 2022, Gerardine joined Johnson Hana as a Legal Consultant, where she is engaged on a project with a leading Irish-American financial services and software company.
What drew you to working with Johnson Hana?
In short, the timing was right.
I’d just left Revolut and was due to take up a very exciting role with a cryptocurrency firm. Then the “Crypto Crash” happened and suddenly that didn’t feel like such a great move!
Rather than jumping into another role, I wanted to take some time to reflect on my next move and a friend suggested to me reaching out to Johnson Hana and working as an external consultant while I was contemplating that move. I’d had some awareness of Johnson Hana from my time with Revolut, so I gave them a quick call, and it all just fell into place. Within a couple of days of reaching out to Lisa [McCarthy, Head of Consultant Management at Johnson Hana], I was in conversation with [leading payments firm] about potential start dates.
You say the work has been different to what you anticipated, how so?
I definitely had preconceptions about what work as an external legal consultant would look like –that it would be routine, repetitive and limited to, for example, reviewing NDAs or populating templates. But I am delighted to say that the reality has been very different.
I’ve been working across a spectrum of legal issues, drafting and negotiating complex commercial agreements with users (while always working closely with a member of the internal Legal team of course).
Aside from the quality of the work, I have also been hugely impressed with the processes which [leading payments firm] has in place and the way in which they engage and support the team of external consultants (and would see this as a model that could and should be used elsewhere). There are obviously certain internal matters and processes that external consultants are not involved in but the internal team do an excellent job of keeping us up-to-date and included. Personally I do feel like I’m part of the team.
I also have to add that Lisa in Johnson Hana has been fantastic. Super helpful and also always on the end of the phone with any queries I have.
So, what’s next for your career?
That’s a tricky one to answer – particularly given this time last year I did not think that I would be working as an external consultant 12 months down the line! The factors that brought me to work as an external consultant (timing and market developments) and the factors that over six months later are keeping me here (essentially the quality of the work) are very different. At this point, I’m very very happy and will continue to be as long as I am being challenged and developing. And, most importantly of course, for as long as I’m bringing value to the company.
From a career development perspective, it has also given me food for thought. While my experience is broad-based (regulatory, corporate governance and commercial contracts), at both Revolut and Fexco, I worked primarily as a regulatory lawyer. This is the first time that I have focused exclusively on commercial contracts and I am thoroughly enjoying it! When we spoke earlier about how working as a consultant has differed from what I expected, I guess that is not something that I had anticipated.
Going back to the work you’re currently doing, you mentioned that you admire the company’s processes, how so?
The contract management process they have in place is very efficient. For each contract or case, we receive the information and documentation required through the contract management software – with those cases being prioritised as high, medium or low based on a range of factors. In dealing with the case, you have a whole armour of playbooks and negotiation guides available to you. Of these, the one that I always have open on my desktop is a Master Fallback/Canned Responses document. It contains the company’s position on key clauses within its main user sales contract and guidance to responding to a range of user queries.
Of course no matter how comprehensive a playbook is, it could not possibly cover all bases. In those instances, the company has a clear process in place for external consultants to escalate queries to the internal legal team and to work with them on finding a bespoke solution.
Playbook creation is something we work on a lot with our clients, this “fallback guide” sounds like a similar concept?
That’s exactly what it is. It not only creates efficiencies but it also brings certainty and reduces the legal risk for the company as it clearly sets out the company’s position and its risk appetite on particular clauses.
As a former Private Practice lawyer, what are the differences you find between working in a law firm and work in-house?
For me the biggest difference is the satisfaction of seeing the end-product in action and working side-by-side with colleagues – the client – to make that happen, sharing in the triumphs but also the frustrations and having not only the legal skills and training but also the knowledge of what happened in practice to solve any issues that may arise.
Particularly in the context of commercial contracts, within private practice, you tend to focus on the legal clauses at the front-end of a contract. And don’t get me wrong – these are of course hugely important. But working in-house, there is an opportunity to understand the company’s product and its risk appetite which means you are in a better position when considering, for example, fun technical legal stuff like warranties and indemnities! For me when I decided to do an MBA this was one of the driving forces – to gain a fuller understanding of the business to better serve the client’s needs.
In terms of both private practice and in-house, what do you see as “the future of law”, i.e., what’s changing for the legal sector?
On what’s changing for the sector, it may not be something that is particularly tangible but in my experience in working in-house over the last 12+years, it is now increasingly rare for any matter to be considered a “pure” legal matter. It is no longer the case that you can consider “legal risk” in isolation. It is blended with for example financial, reputational, regulatory risk. As an in-house lawyer, you can identify the course of action that is right from a legal perspective but must also work with colleagues to consider the wider implications.
The risk appetite of the business will vary depending on the implications of these different elements if you’re in breach. And it’s important to remember that legal is always managing one element of a much broader landscape.
You have to be aware of that and that’s where you can bring more value as well. But there is a tipping point, of course, at which you have to say, “yes, this might make more financial sense, but the legal risk, or the regulatory risk, that you are taking on is disproportionate.”
Which new technologies have had and are having the biggest impact for you?
As a consumer of technology, there are two main areas for me.
The first one is contract generation and document management. It really helps in your day-to-day life to put your hand on a standard template and then to have tools in place to effectively store and manage contracts.
The second big change has been matter management or ticketing systems. Rather than just being emailed or called, which can make tasks difficult to prioritise, now there’s a system. Now we’re able to prioritise based on customer, or value of deal for example.
I guess you would not classify these as new – or certainly not particularly exciting!. These technologies have been around for a while now but on a day-to-day basis they create efficiencies across the entire contract lifecycle and give us the time (and head space) to focus on the more exciting stuff!
What advice would you give to a solicitor or barrister considering joining Johnson Hana as a consultant?
The first thing I would say to anyone is look at the Johnson Hana client list.
There you can see that this is an opportunity for someone to go and experience what it is like to work in one of those companies which are impressive by any standard. It’s an opportunity to work in a company of that calibre and to see how it all works.
It also enables you to build up relationships not only within those companies but in the wider in-house community. You could see this as a career progression opportunity because you’re getting an opportunity to be exposed and to build relationships with these market-leading companies.
The other element I really want to highlight is the ability to remote work, as that’s hugely important for me. For me, based in Kerry, remote working has opened up a whole new jobs market. While I still hugely value in person collaboration, it’s great being able to blend it with remote working.
About Johnson Hana
Johnson Hana is Ireland’s leading alternative legal solutions provider. That means we disaggregate legal advisory and legal process work, and focus on the latter.
Legal Process Outsourcing – whereby a specific legal process is carved out and outsourced to us
Legal Process Secondments – to augment a busy legal team or fulfil a temporary requirement for an experienced legal professional.
Historically, legal advisory and legal process work were tackled and billed in the same way. This means that all legal work has been as costly and time consuming as legal advice.
It doesn’t need to be.
We deliver legal process work through a combination of innovative legal technologies, robust project management methodologies, and expert lawyers. This approach reduces client legal spend by over 50%, while also providing totally transparent reporting and billing. This leaves our clients free to focus on the strategic, advisory work that really adds value.