Talking Heads Interview
Interviewer: Clare Butler, Laurence Simons (London, UK)
Interviewee: Enrique Aznar, VEON (Amsterdam, NL)
Clare Butler (CB): Tell me about the moment you decided to be a lawyer?
Enrique Aznar (EA): I don’t think there was one big moment; as a teenager I was a little confused as to what I wanted to do. I had 2 big options, one was Law and one was Economics, then I realised I was good at dealing with people and solving problems so then I decided my best option would be Law.
I left the door open doing some work in Economics too after that but then eventually I moved in to training in Law in my masters and I took some Business programs later on in my career. There was no WOW moment when I decided I wanted to become a lawyer.
CB: When were you most challenged as a lawyer and how did you overcome it?
EA: I’ve had different challenges in different capacities, I started with Arthur Anderson as a tax lawyer for two years, then I moved to PriceWaterhouse as an in-house lawyer, then to Freshfields before I went back in-house with Dell Inc. and then Compliance at Tyco after their huge corporate scandal.
One year ago I moved in to something really interesting involving ‘Values & Culture Transformation’. What I’m doing now isn’t specifically about legal work or compliance work but it’s all related to building a stronger ethical culture.
As an in-house lawyer, the first main challenge was earning a seat at the table; when I first joined, legal was a central function reporting to headquarters, even though I had responsibility for a number of operations, I wanted to make local management feel like I was one of them, at the beginning they were holding meetings when I wasn’t there, but eventually they were planning meetings around me so I could attend, that was a huge shift.
As a Compliance Officer, the main challenge was making people understand that there are reasons beyond legal for doing the right thing. Doing the right thing is the right thing to do. As a Culture Transformation Officer, making sure that people walk the talk and that change is not simply a tag line.
CB: Looking back on your career, what are you most proud of?
EA: A couple of things: I am proud that I have been able to live my dream of travelling and knowing the world. My profession has given me the opportunity to visit more than 75 countries and meet different people. Secondly, what makes me the proudest is that I realise I have been able to influence people.
This makes me very happy when I see that people are changing their behaviours. My purpose is to leave this world in a better shape than when I came. I have been able to influence people in a positive way which gives me huge satisfaction.
CB: What advice would you give to a newly qualified lawyer?
EA: I would advise to try and find their purpose early in life and understand the impact they can have in making a better world. Focus on achieving your purpose, don’t get distracted by career progression or what money your colleagues are making. Once you start aiming towards your purpose you will start to reach it emotionally, I wish someone had given me that advice!
CB: What advice would you give to your younger self?
EA: This links to the previous answer, but also; don’t fear to live your dreams and make them come true. Don’t let them be biased by what others think you should do.
CB: How do you deal with stress whether personal or professional?
EA: I think that my life started to change positively when I started to listen to myself and practice some yoga and meditation. Finding time for me has actually helped a lot. Just 10-15 mins a day for mediation or yoga is a huge help. Playing guitar relaxes me too even though I am a horrible player!
CB: Are there tools or techniques that have made you more productive?
EA: Teamwork has made me more productive in my career. I have spent half of my career structuring and creating legal / compliance departments and developing effective teams. I don’t currently have a team so have created a network of culture representatives from the different operations and it’s about keeping everyone engaged. If you put the right people together with a sense of purpose and help them to develop, this is the most effective tool that you can get, it has worked very well for me.
CB: What is the biggest challenge facing lawyers in the next 5 years?
EA: Both in private practice and in-house, they will face constant change, because companies and societies are changing. They need to not only adapt but be ahead of the change. Because these changes can also bring risk that lawyers need to be aware of. It is clear to me that lawyers need to start focussing more on management, about getting people to work in teams. Lawyers will have to be able to evolve in to managers and people management.
CB: What is one growth area/rising trend in the legal profession and why?
EA: We have seen in the last 15 years that compliance is the name of the game as a practice area. The next thing is going beyond compliance, companies are talking about culture, integrity, purpose. Lawyers need to be conscious of their company and need to start focussing on what is their reason for existing. I really believe focussing on meaning and purpose, go beyond the boundaries and understand the impact they can have on their companies and their society, lawyers should play a huge role in society.
CB: Thank you so much for your time and for taking part in this interview and for sharing your views with our readership.