What constitutes a strong legal team? It’s the people.

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Lindsay Beardsell IWD tile

When Lindsay Beardsell joined Tate & Lyle as Executive Vice President, General Counsel, in 2018, she saw an opportunity to establish a legal team culture that prized individuality and diversity in all its forms.

For Lindsay, 15 years’ experience of leading in-house functions told her it was about attracting and retaining the right people, irrespective of race, gender, nationality or sexuality, and fostering conditions where they could thrive and deliver for the business.

Two years in, she leads a 20-strong legal and compliance team of ‘get-up-and-go’ business partners able to build cross-company links and proactively identify and address business risks. Here, she explains how she built the team.

“One of the things that attracted me to the role at Tate & Lyle was the opportunity to foster a team that was a good cultural fit for the business – agile, well-connected, commercially savvy – and could partner effectively with colleagues spread across 30 countries and a diverse range of customers,” Lindsay explained. “Having a legal team at arms’ length from other functions, sitting in an ivory tower, is not uncommon in corporates, but it can really inhibit that team’s effectiveness and influence within the business,” she continued.

“Since joining, I’ve developed the team and worked with Tate & Lyle’s HR team and a specialist external recruiter to find individuals with their own voice and perspectives, exceptional communicators who know how to manage their stakeholder relationships. People want to join businesses that have a purpose that they believe in and teams where they can bring their “whole self” to work; being able to offer both is why we have such a strong team today,” Lindsay added.

Creating a culture that works

With an established, talented and diverse global team, including the addition of in-region lawyers in growth regions to complement those in Europe and North America, Lindsay and her team have worked to create ways of working that keep people motivated and always developing. “Personal development is prioritised in the team, with every member having their own plan and ongoing training and development opportunities,” explained Lindsay. “With our diverse team in place, the focus now is on making sure colleagues are supported to develop and progress up the ranks, and part of that is about having open and regular conversations about individual needs and goals, and carefully assessing opportunities as they come up.”

Prioritising both the personal and professional

Offering a flexible approach to work is another way to engage colleagues and help them to balance home responsibilities with the requirements of work. “Careers that fit with healthy, balanced lifestyles bring out the best in people. Companies that understand this attract and keep great employees, which is why I’ve always encouraged my team to find a working pattern that fits with their home life,” Lindsay continued.

“I live in the Cotswolds (UK) and have two children, so would have typically spent three or four days in our London office pre-Covid and the rest of the time working in my home office. Nick [Nick Hampton, CEO] and Gerry [Gerry Murphy, Chairman] supported this approach from the get-go, and I know it’s something my team value too. It’s by no means just a benefit for women, with men increasingly acting as care givers and generally valuing a more flexible approach to work. I believe firmly that if you have the right colleague, they will do what is needed to get the job done, whether in an office, working from home or working while travelling. It’s about the person, not the place.”

Supporting BAME talent

The Black Lives Matter movement, which started in the US and echoed around the globe, shone a spotlight on the issues of race, racism and representation in all parts of society, including business. “Around the death of George Floyd and BLM protests, as a business and as a team we talked about the impact of these issues on individuals and what more we could do to challenge biases and systems that hold back BAME (black and minority ethnic) talent,” Lindsay explained. “Several of our team members lead Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) related employee groups like the Black Employee Network and Global Professional Women’s Network, and are working with our Executive Committee and HR to drive this agenda forward.

“For me, this speaks volumes to the personalities we have in Legal and Compliance,” Lindsay concluded. “They’re about partnering with different teams to apply their skills to establish what’s not working, find solutions and make a difference. How it was, is not how it has to be.”

Influencing an industry

“We’re active members of two industry groups - the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity in the U.S. and Europe’s General Council for Diversity and Inclusion - and have linked into these organisations so we can share ideas, resources and best practices. This, in turn, helps professionals in our field, from new starters to business leaders, to access tools to drive necessary change. We’re also using our purchasing power by working with outside firms that have shared values and demonstrate meaningful progress in I&D. We recently updated and streamlined our panel of firms from around 50 to 12 and this was a non-negotiable during the pitching process.”

Adam Smith, VP and Head of Legal EMEA and APAC

Partnering on diversity and inclusion

“Five Tate & Lyle employees, including myself and another member of the Legal team, founded the Black Employee Network (B.E.N.) in early 2020. We knew we needed buy-in and support from leadership to succeed, and Lindsay was one of the first senior leaders to agree to serve as an official B.E.N. Champion.

She and the other B.E.N. Champions have set aside time to have candid conversations with B.E.N. members and moved quickly on some of our suggestions, such as making Martin Luther King Jr. Day an official holiday for eligible employees in the U.S. Having the support of my boss and other company leaders has really meant a lot to me. I’m excited about continuing to partner on diversity and inclusion efforts in the future.”

Monica Clark, Senior Legal Counsel, NOAM