About Michelle Kelly
After graduating from Trinity college in 2006, Michelle spent 6 years in one of Ireland’s leading law firms, first as a trainee solicitor and then as a qualified tax consultant.
She worked for NAMA (Ireland’s “bad bank” established during the financial crisis to acquire loans from distressed Irish banks) for six years in a broad in-house role which included advising on high profile, multi-jurisdictional litigation and significant asset and loan sales.
She has also had exposure to refugee, employment and family law through various volunteering positions.
Flexible working has always been a priority for Michelle and the opportunity first presented itself in 2019 when she decided to take voluntary redundancy from NAMA and begin consulting. Early roles included working in house for a busy Irish retail operation and a small firm specialising in commercial contracts, mainly in the med-tech industry.
Michelle joined Johnson Hana in 2022 and has worked on both a Johnson Hana led contract remediation project and directly with Johnson Hana’s client, one of America’s largest banks.
What drew you to working with Johnson Hana?
Dan Fox (CEO) and I have some friends in common so I first heard about Johnson Hana from him when the company was in its early stages. I was instantly drawn to the concept because it offers the three things that are most important to me at this point in my career; flexibility, the opportunity to work remotely and excellent quality work for industry leading clients.
How have you found the experience of working for clients as a Johnson Hana Consultant?
Amazing – it’s genuinely my dream job!
I had high expectations to begin with which were quickly exceeded. I’ve always been attracted to the flexibility and autonomy of consulting, but it can be a lonely and uncertain path. By acting as an intermediary between the client and the consultant, Johnson Hana provides a layer of stability and support that’s impossible to achieve on your own. Amy O’Dowd and the team have been fantastic in this regard.
Do you have a typical day? If so, what does that look like?
Not really. It depends on [the American bank]’s priorities on any given day.
In terms of approach though, I work 2.5 days a week Monday to Wednesday afternoon. Although there’s absolutely no pressure to do so, I generally keep an eye on emails for the remainder of the week so I can be ready to hit the ground running when I’m in again on the following Monday. I’m fortunate to job share with an excellent Johnson Hana consultant, Stephen Fealy. We have a great relationship which means that I can easily take over from what he’s been working on when I’m not there and vice versa.
The team we’re on covers commercial contracts for the EMEA region and given the scale of the organisation, the subject matter varies widely. For example, over the past few months I’ve worked on a diverse range of agreements for UK entities such as speaker engagements, telecommunications and IT services, venue hire and advertising campaigns. Most recently I’ve helped co-ordinate the local elements of an EMEA wide facilities management agreement.
We’re really lucky with our manager Sean who is incredibly smart and possesses the ability to distil the most technically difficult points of law into a ladybird like guide. There’s lots of autonomy combined with oversight and support when required. I genuinely couldn’t ask for more from a work environment!
What are the benefit for clients of working with Johnson Hana?
I think the cost and time efficiencies of using Johnson Hana consultants are key. So many in-house teams are over-stretched and heavily reliant on expensive external law firms who don’t understand their client’s business. As a result, time and money is often wasted poring over academic advice notes and on follow up calls struggling to determine their application.
Johnson Hana consultants on the other hand are embedded in the team and can tailor output to suit clients’ needs at a fraction of the cost of law firms. Unlike the clients’ own in-house lawyers, Johnson Hana consultants can be recruited quickly and the resource can be scaled up or down depending on business needs.
Johnson Hana consultants have also usually worked in-house with multiple clients and have had exposure to different areas of law and industries, which makes us very adaptable and practical in our approach.
What are the key differentiators, in your opinion, between working in private practice vs in-house vs as a consultant for Johnson Hana?
From the consultant’s perspective, I think the key difference is having clear boundaries and more personal time.
While in-house is obviously more flexible than private practice, a set 20-hour week is almost unheard of. This allows me to balance an interesting, fulfilling career with family life and my own interests.
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?
Well, the use of AI obviously. But aside from that, I think the way we learn is changing with a shift from the academic to the practical. I haven’t consulted a textbook in years but apart from the more traditional online resources, there’s been a huge growth in real life lawyers such as Laura Frederick, Nada Alnajafi and Sarah Irwin sharing their experience and expertise via LinkedIn or their own platforms. This new, more collaborative approach benefits the profession as a whole.
Which new technologies have had and are having the biggest impact for you?
Prior to joining [the American bank], I worked with a Johnson Hana team on a contract remediation exercise for [a global social media company] where we used specially designed IT platform Kira. Kira enabled us to automatically discount a huge swathe of contracts initially and to get the absolute best out of AI by focusing our review on priority agreements or where the AI analysis was inconclusive.
We used PandDoc to populate the subsequent amendments which meant that manual intervention was only needed when the facts were unique, or an element of negotiation was required.
What advice would you give to a solicitor or barrister considering joining Johnson Hana as a consultant?
Speak to the other consultants to get a real insight into what’s involved.
Stephen Fealy was so generous with his time when I first joined [the American bank] and gave good, practical advice like the importance of having a second monitor as well as recommending useful reading materials such as the EBA Outsourcing Guidelines. Both recommendations definitely stood to me!
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.