In-House v Private Practice – Sonia Janday – S1E8

In this episode of the Legally Speaking Podcast, our host Rob Hanna is joined by a co-host, Deenum Gahbri! Deenum and Rob are joined by Sonia Janday, Senior Legal Counsel at Aviva Investors, & Co-Chair of Aviva Origins, A Mentor, A Diversity Champion Award Winner this year for In-house, Society of Asian Lawyers Committee Member & Asian Legal Awards Lead.

Show Notes

Here are 3 reasons why you should listen to the full episode:

  1. Hear the differences between working in private practice and in-house.
  2. Learn about the Society of Asian Lawyers.
  3. Why Aviva Investors are keen to celebrate events all year round.


Episode highlights:

Sonia’s legal journey:

  • Sonia completed the legal secretarial course, working as a legal secretary.
  • She then done the Cilex course, studying and working at the same time.
  • Sonia became a paralegal in a civil litigation and property litigation team.
  • She qualified as a legal executive.
  • She completed the LPC to qualify as a solicitor.
  • Sonia did not have a training contract, however got good experience this way.
  • Sonia qualified in private practice, then moved in-house.
  • When Sonia moved in-house, she knew some of the in-house processes.

What skills Sonia thinks helped her move from private practice to in-house:

  • Sonia says training as a newly qualified in private practice assisted her transition into in-house.
  • Time recording as well.
  • The key traits to make someone stand out is their willingness to get stuck in.
  • Everyday can be different in-house.
  • Another key trait, is the ability to speak up because this way you can seek clarity on a task.

Day to day perspective in-house and the challenges it presents:

  • Sonia works with asset managers.
  • She is the lead for ESG.
  • A lot of the work is managing risk in terms of incremental reporting.
  • There is also transactional work involved with landlords and tenants.

Sonia’s involvement with the Society of Asian Lawyers:

  • Sonia has been part of the Society of Asian Lawyers (SAL) for a couple of years.
  • The Society promotes other lawyers, their progression and mentoring.
  • At the beginning of the year, certain committee members take responsibility for events.
  • Throughout the year, the members organizing the events book venues, invite speakers and promote it.
  • Members involved with mentoring will get queries coming through regularly, which is split between barristers on the committee.
  • If queries are about training contracts, then the lawyers in the society will address them.
  • There are usually 12 members on the committee.
  • If individuals want to join, there is a form on the SAL website.

Sonia’s diversity work and winning her diversity award:

  • Sonia is passionate about mentoring and diversity, because when she entered the profession, she didn’t have help or assistance from others.
  • There were few people who looked or sounded like her.
  • She didn’t want anyone else coming into the profession to feel the same way she did.
  • There are 6 communities, 1 of which is Origins, celebrating cultural differences.
  • They had elections where people stood for the co-chair role, and Sonia got the role last year.
  • As part of the role, Sonia pushed forward diversity within Aviva.
  • Sonia is also involved with the multicultural professional forum at the House of Lords.
  • This year, for the 1st time within Aviva, Sonia organized events for Ramadan.
  • This was to promote Aviva and Origins as a perspective employer.
  • Aviva reached out to local mosques, handing out prayer timetables.
  • It is the 2nd year where Aviva have introduced an internship program under social mobility charities.
  • This year, Aviva have opened a prayer room.

The challenges Sonia faces day-to-day moving from London to Norwich:

  • Sonia is based in Norwich and lots of meetings are in the London office.
  • Sonia travels once a week.
  • She enjoys this because when people know she is present, they network with her.

Sonia’s mentoring and volunteering:

  • Sonia is involved with the Women of the Future Ambassadors Programme.
  • Once a year, she goes to the annual ambassadors reception, where she meets 150 students, from different schools.
  • Many professionals and lawyers join.
  • Many of the students are unsure about their careers and want advice.

Sonia’s tips on networking in the legal profession:

  • Sonia explains networking is important in terms of her own professional development.
  • Sonia attends SAL events; she goes to events at the Law Society to meet other lawyers in her role and in-house.
  • The reason Sonia joined SAL is to meet more people.

What Sonia enjoyed most about her time in private practice?:

  • Sonia qualified at Herbert Smith Freehills and worked with the firm.
  • She enjoyed the work and said her team was brilliant.
  • There was camaraderie whilst working in private practice.

Sonia’s vision for 2020:

  • For the last few months, Sonia has been a panel speaker for InterLaw.
  • For Sonia, she is reflecting how she got to where she is, before thinking about what is coming in 2020.

Aviva’s Diwali celebrations:

  • For Diwali, Aviva have had small celebrations.
  • The recent Diwali event was the biggest, with dancers and staff having dancing lessons.
  • The firm had Indian sweets and samosas being handed out all throughout the building.
  • It was to raise awareness of what Diwali means to people and to staff members.
  • The reason Aviva have lots of events is to be reflective of customers, as well as staff.

Sonia’s experience with legal tech in private practice vs in-house:

  • In private practice, Sonia had 24-hour typing support.
  • 24-hour IT support was available if something went wrong.
  • Sonia also has 24-hour IT support with Aviva.
  • The issue is phoning a line – somebody does not come to fix the problem in-person and this can be a concern during big transactions.
  • In-house firms are restricted by budgets and costs.
  • Sonia does not have secretarial support, so has to do her own typing in-house.

Sonia’s advice for people qualifying and considering an in-house career:

  • Sonia explains it is better staying in private practice for a little while, before moving in-house.
  • This is because of the exposure to different things.
  • It will help individuals become an expert in particular areas before moving in-house.
  • The breadth of in-house work is so broad, it can be difficult to familiarize yourself within 1 particular area.
  • Sonia advises for those who are 0 – 3 PQE, to get a secondment.

What challenges do individuals who are in practice practice face whilst swapping to in-house?:

  • When in-house, you are working with the client.
  • Any advice you are giving, you are advising the client and they need to take this onboard.
  • If the client asks you a question, you need to give a response.
  • When in-house, you have to take a lead on a decision and the client considers this.
  • You get to know the client really well.
  • At the end of the day, you help the client make the decision rather than just giving them advice.

5 powerful quotes from this episode:

  1. “…I’m really, really passionate about the mentoring and the diversity bit, because when I started out in my career, I didn’t have help or assistance from others”.
  2. “But networking is really important, I think in terms of your own professional development or if you ever want to move on…”.
  3. “And I suppose the reason that we do a lot of events and celebrate a lot of festivals at Aviva, we need to be reflective of our customers, but we also need to be reflective of our staff”.
  4. “Once you’re in house, that’s it everything’s going to come your way. It’s just being confident in what, you know, before you move”.
  5. “I think if you are thinking of a move in house, then speak to as many in house lawyers as you can and get an idea of what they do because each team is different. So, the more you do that, the more you get some insight before you make that decision”.

If you wish to connect with Sonia, you may reach out to her on LinkedIn.

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Rob Hanna: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Legally Speaking Podcast, powered by Kissoon Carr. I’m your host, Rob Hanna. This week, I’m delighted to be joined finally by my cohost and other face of the Legally Speaking Podcast’s, album cover. For all those of you who were wondering, Dennum Gahbri. Deenum heads up our dispute resolution and white-collar crime desk, our in house DPO and lead ambassador for our affiliation, Society of Asian Lawyers, where this year we were fortunate enough to have co-sponsored the amazing 25th Annual Asian Legal Awards ceremony 100 years of women in law.   

Deenum and I are delighted to be joined by Sonia Janday, senior legal counsel at Aviva Investors, a co-chair of Aviva Origins, a mentor, a recent Diversity Champion Award winner for in-house, Society of Asian Lawyers Committee member and Asian Legal Awards lead. Wow. That was a mouthful.

Deenum Gahbri: [00:00:53] Thanks Rob. It’s an absolute pleasure to finally be on co-hosting the Legally Speaking Podcast. I can’t believe you waited this long to finally have me on our podcast. Rob, as you’ve mentioned, I’ve been working closely with the Society of Asian Lawyers and partnered closely with them for the past few years. I’ve known Sonia for some time. Now we met a couple of years ago at an event hosted by Squire Patton Boggs on behalf of the Society of Asian Lawyers. Sonia, thank you so much for joining us today.

And many congratulations once again for winning the Diversity Champion in-house award at the Diversity Legal Awards in London, you must be delighted to have won.

Sonia Janday: [00:01:26] Hello both I am so excited to be here. Thank you for having me. Yes. I am really excited that I won still shock though. And getting over it. 

Rob Hanna: [00:01:35] Yeah. Super congratulations.

Really, really impressive. Um, before we go into our topic today, where we’re talking about in house vs private practice, we do have a customary question we do like to ask on the podcast. Um, to all the true legal professionals. On the scale of 1 to 10, 10 being very real. How real do you rate the TV series Suits?

Sonia Janday: [00:02:00] Ohhhh I’d say about nine. 

Rob Hanna: [00:02:04] Okay. And why why’d you give it a nine? 

Sonia Janday: [00:02:07] Because of the late nights you’ll never go home when you’re in private practice!


Rob Hanna: [00:02:13] That’s a, that’s a fair point. That’s a fair point. 

Deenum Gahbri: [00:02:16] So Sonia, have you always wanted to be a lawyer? 

Sonia Janday: [00:02:19] I have yes. Ever since I was small, um, I knew that’s what I was going to go into. And so, it was really easy for me going through school and college. 

Rob Hanna: [00:02:28] Do you want to tell us a bit about your journey? Obviously, you’ve been super successful.

You’ve sort of risen up the ranks through your journey on private practice, but sort of taking people back, you might be listening more at the early starts of their careers. Do you want to sort of just talk us through a little bit about your journey and sort of how it’s sort of arrived to where you’re impressively already a senior legal counsel at Aviva?

Sonia Janday: [00:02:48] I think I have to take it back to when I started. The legal sort of secretarial course. So, a lot of people won’t know that I actually started working as a secretary, a legal secretary. Um, and then

Rob Hanna: [00:03:01] Were you as good as Donna?


Sonia Janday: [00:03:05] Um, and then I did the Ilex course, so I studied and worked at the same time. Then I became a paralegal in a litigation team, a civil litigation and property litigation team. Um, and then I qualified as a legal executive. Did the LPC then qualified as a solicitor. So, I kind of started at the bottom and worked my way up.

But I got good experience that way. So, I didn’t have to do training contract. I didn’t have to send off millions of application forms and, um, wait kind of patiently, nervously, but I literally just worked and studied at the same time.

Rob Hanna: [00:03:43] I think that’s a fascinating case study because everyone worries, I’m not going to get a training contract, is that the only way? And so, it’s great to actually have somebody on that’s gone through that journey that it is still possible, don’t give up hope. And actually, if you work hard, you get into the right places. It can still happen for you, right? 

Sonia Janday: [00:03:58] Absolutely. 

Deenum Gahbri: [00:04:00] How did you find the move from private practice?

Sonia Janday: [00:04:04] I think that for me, it was a fun move. It was a good move. Let’s just say that I’m glad I was, I qualified in private practice and then moved in house. I knew I wanted to go in house at some point in my career. Um, it just so happened it was quite early on. I had a really good training as a basis for my career, I think in private practice.

So, when I moved in house, I knew sort of certain processes. Um, the way that I would do things sort of in a particular way helped me. Whereas if I’d just gone straight into inhouse and qualified there it probably would have been a little bit more difficult for me. 

Rob Hanna: [00:04:47] Yeah. And that was the question I was going to ask what do you think you took away from your private practice experience in particular for those people who might be thinking about a move in house or back the other way into private practice. What skills do you think and experience that you’ve really kind of learned from in private practice helps you in house now?

Sonia Janday: [00:05:04] Training. 

Rob Hanna: [00:05:04] Yeah. 

Sonia Janday: [00:05:05] Absolutely. Without a doubt, a hundred percent is, your training that you get, even as a newly qualified in private practice, you can’t beat that. Um, time recording, I suppose. [Laughter] So if you’re strict with yourself on time recording, we still time record in house, not just so they can see how much we’re doing, but also as an in-house team were comparable to our panel firms. So, it’s always good to keep an eye on how much we’re doing compared to them. 

Deenum Gahbri: [00:05:35] In your opinion, what do you think makes a great lawyer?

Rob Hanna: [00:05:38] I guess, from a private practice and in-house perspective, having seen both what would you say are some of the key traits that would be yeah, makes someone stand out?

Sonia Janday: [00:05:46] Someone that is willing to get stuck in, in-house. I think, because each day can be really different. A really good sound training, so, you know, when things come your way, you’re able to kind of, just get on with them. Um, but also the ability to speak up, if you don’t know something that stands people apart from people that would just do a transaction or get on with stuff, but if they’re not sure of the right way to do it and they won’t ask, that doesn’t make you a good lawyer. 

Rob Hanna: [00:06:23] I guess for people who are not so familiar with what sort of the in-house role presents, you know, you’re obviously a senior legal counsel at the moment. Do you want to sort of just give us a flavor of what that looks like from a sort of day to day perspective at sort of not big brand and sort of what challenges that presents?

Sonia Janday: [00:06:40] So I work with the asset managers and part of my role. I am the lead for ESG. So, a lot of it is managing risk in terms of our reporting incremental reporting, which could be CRC. It could be the ESOPs reporting we’ve just completed. It’s also making sure that we are lined up. We’re doing things properly in time.

Um, it’s also the transactional work that I would be doing in terms of landlord and tenant. Mmm. So that’s kind of my day role. And then on top of that, I’ve got the other little bits. I say… 

Rob Hanna: [00:07:15] That’s a very interesting point. And I know yourself and Deenum have known each other for some time. I’ve had the great pleasure of getting to know you over time. We’ve worked with Society of Asian Lawyers and, you know, you put on some amazing events. We’re very fortunate to be involved in the most recent one this year, which is a landmark event. Right? So, I guess for people listening in it, so how do you fit it all in? 


Sonia Janday: [00:07:37] I don’t sleep!

Rob Hanna: [00:07:38] Do you want to sort of tell us a bit about your involvement with SAL, that’s Society of Asian Lawyers, for people listening in, and sort of how that works and how you fit that all in?

Sonia Janday: [00:07:46] I literally don’t sleep. 


So, anyone that knows me knows I go to bed really late because I kind of prioritize stuff. So obviously it’s the business as usual stuff, then it will be the Origins, then it will be SAL.

Um, and then my mentoring and things like that. I do it because I really enjoy it. So, I think you don’t mind then putting in the hard work. Um, SAL is really enjoyable. I’ve done it for a couple of years now. 

Rob Hanna: [00:08:13] Yeah. And what’s the, what does SAL aim to achieve for those people may be quite new to SAL or thinking about getting involved in society?

Sonia Janday: [00:08:20] Yeah. 

Rob Hanna: [00:08:21] What, what sort of, what are you trying to promote? 

Sonia Janday: [00:08:23] It’s promoting other lawyers and their progression, mentoring. 

Deenum Gahbri: [00:08:28] It’s really good to see everything that you’ve done with SAL all your support and all your hard work. 

Rob Hanna: [00:08:33] Yeah, I am literally amazed at what you guys have managed to achieve. Even since we’ve been involved with in very recent times, I think the level of engagement, the quality of the events, you’re just doing more and more. I think you’ve had some real keynote speakers at a lot of the events. 

Sonia Janday: [00:08:48] We have.

Rob Hanna: [00:08:48] And it’s been a real powerful message that you guys are trying to send out. 

Um, so yeah. How does it work in a working? Is that something you get involved in on a weekly basis is a monthly thing cause you’re on the committee, right? 

Sonia Janday: [00:08:57] I am. Yes. Yes. So at the beginning of the year, we each decide, um, certain sort of committee members take responsibility for certain events throughout the year so that, you know, you’re not, but you’ve got something coming up, say in June, you’ll be preparing around sort of March to May time getting kind of venues, speakers, uh, promoting it, um, things like that.

So, it’s not an everyday role. Um, if you’re involved with the mentoring, um, which I worked on last year, then you’ll get queries generally coming through regularly, which we split because we’ve got barristers on the committee as well. A lot of the queries are, if I want to go in and either do training contract, then the lawyers can pick that up.

If it’s someone to do with pupillages and one of the barristers can pick it up. So, we just share the workload, which is really good. It works well. 

Rob Hanna: [00:09:48] Yeah. No, that’s, that’s great. I think Deenum and I absolutely loved the last event. 

Deenum Gahbri: [00:09:51] Yeah definitely. How many of you all were actually on the committee then? 

Sonia Janday: [00:09:54] Normally around 12, depending on workload.

Rob Hanna: [00:09:58] And if people are thinking of wanting to join SAL, how can they go about doing that? 

So, we have, um, forms actually, it’s coming up quite soon. We have forms on our website on the SAL website, which you just need to complete and then send off. And then we have an AGM, uh, coming up at later on this month, where candidates will just stand up, say a little bit about yourself, how you can help SAL, and then we’ll have votes.

Deenum Gahbri: [00:10:20] Yeah. 

Rob Hanna: [00:10:21] And Deenum mentioned at the top that, you know, congratulations recent award winner.

Sonia Janday: [00:10:25] Oh gosh. 

Deenum Gahbri: [00:10:26] Many congratulations!

Rob Hanna: [00:10:28] I have to profess; Sonia was saying off air that she didn’t expect it. I’m sure she didn’t, but Deenum and I were quietly confident. Tough competition but thoroughly deserved. So yeah. Do you want to tell us a bit about your diversity work and perhaps how it led to winning that award?

Sonia Janday: [00:10:43] Okay so I think, um, I’m really, really passionate about the mentoring and the diversity bit, because when I started out in my career, I didn’t have help or assistance from others. Um, that looked like me or sounded like me, or had my background, um, that was really hard, and I don’t want anyone else coming into the profession to feel like that.

And we’ve got six communities, one of which is Origins one, which celebrates cultural differences. So, we had elections, um, and then people stood for co-chair role, which I got last year. So, with that came a lot of, uh, work that I could do within Aviva to push forward diversity. So, I’m involved with the multicultural professional forum at the House of Lords.

Rob Hanna: [00:11:31] Wow.

Sonia Janday: [00:11:31] We’ve held for the first time this year within Aviva, we held certain events and uh, I’d say, yeah, events for Ramadan. We produced little prayer timetables, which we gave out to all our staff that would like them. Um, but we also did some outreach. So, to promote Aviva and Origins as a perspective employer, which people don’t a lot of people don’t associate Aviva an insurer with kind of BAME employment.

We did some outreach at local mosques and handed out the prayer time tables there, which went around really well as well. So little things like that. It’s our second year where we have introduced an internship program under social mobility charities. And then this year we’ve just opened a prayer room. So, we’ve done a lot of stuff under the Origins brand, which went towards the whole diversity champion.

Rob Hanna: [00:12:26] So there we have it. That’s why it was rightly deserved, that award.

Sonia Janday: [00:12:31] It’s not just me!

Rob Hanna: [00:12:32] It’s a team effort, but you know, well done already well deserved. And I don’t know how you managed to fit it all in. I think Deenum was going to sort of ask you that. 

Deenum Gahbri: [00:12:39] Okay. So, what challenges did you actually face day to day moving from central London to Norwich? Cause I know you, that’s where you’re based at the moment.

Sonia Janday: [00:12:48] I’m based in Norwich, yes. Yeah. So, a lot of meetings are in our London office. So, it’s traveling kind of once a week, possibly.

Deenum Gahbri: [00:12:55] Do you enjoy that?

Sonia Janday: [00:12:56] I do. Um, because when people know that I’m here, they’re like, okay, you’re in the office. Can you just come and sit down with this person or meet this person?

So that’s really useful. But again, the traveling is really tiring. 

Deenum Gahbri: [00:13:09] You have lovely offices. [Laughter] 

Sonia Janday: [00:13:12] We do!

Rob Hanna: [00:13:14] And you don’t sleep! I’m a classic 8 hours guy, so if I don’t get 8 hours everyone just hates me in the office. 

Sonia Janday: [00:13:21] Exactly! You’ll be really shocked, but I average two or three hours at night. 

Rob Hanna: [00:13:23] Deenum, you?

Deenum Gahbri: [00:13:24] I think I probably do maybe four or five. [Laughter]

Sonia Janday: [00:13:28] That’s two nights sleep for me. [Laughter]

Rob Hanna: [00:13:31] Yeah, exactly. And so, all the people in private practice thinking, I thought you move in house you can do less? It just means you can take on more, right? [laughter]

Sonia Janday: [00:13:37] It does, it does!

Rob Hanna: [00:13:38] Yeah.

Sonia Janday: [00:13:38] I just, I like to keep busy. I like to keep busy. Um, so a lot of people don’t know, but I wasn’t very well a few years back. So, when I came back and came back into work full time, I really wanted to just throw myself in it and kind of in a way it was, I’m better than my illness and that’s kind of what started it off. And now I’m here. It’s just kind of, it’s just gone from there. 

Rob Hanna: [00:14:00] Okay. And we talked a little bit about your mentoring and volunteering work. I think there’s too much to mention in this podcast, but one that I was, you know, we talked about, Oh, we’re talking about the women of the future program. Um, your involvement with that.

Sonia Janday: [00:14:14] Ambassador yes. 

Rob Hanna: [00:14:14] Do you want to sort of tell, tell us a bit more about that. And again, people how they can probably hear a bit more about that?

Sonia Janday: [00:14:19] Yes. So that was one initiative at Aviva I’m involved in. Once a year, we go to an annual ambassadors, reception, uh, around sort of autumn, early summertime, where we have students around 150 students from different schools. A lot of professional, uh, lawyers come in. It doesn’t have to necessarily be a lawyer, but it’s all professions where we’ll have kind of like a small careers workshop and a networking session. So, I did one a couple of weeks ago where we had people in from school from sixth form, from college, people doing A-levels people about to go to university.

So, it’s a broad range where they’re not quite sure what they want to do in their career. So, they just want advice. Um, how do I get into the legal profession? What courses should I be looking at in university? Which area of law is really good for me? That kind of thing. How did you get into it? Conversations that you would have with probably younger members of your family, really. Um, but just on a bigger scale. 

Rob Hanna: [00:15:21] And, you know, networking is a theme that we’ve had throughout our podcast series. I know that’s something you do a hell of a lot as well. Do you want to sort of share your tips or how you go about your networking in the legal profession as a sort of, you know, senior legal counsel?

Sonia Janday: [00:15:35] Um, so in house we’re quite lucky we don’t have to go out and find clients cause I have one client, which is really easy. Yeah. But networking is really important, I think in terms of your own professional development or if you ever want to move on. Kind of just keeping contact.

Rob Hanna: [00:15:51] There is a life after law. [Laughter]

Sonia Janday: [00:15:55] So I just started it, I think for Asian women lawyers is where I started before I got onto SAL, going to events at the law society, meeting other lawyers in my, in my role and in house, I don’t mix with any other companies out of work. So, it was kind of just a note to myself that I need to get out there and do it really. And that’s where it started. 

Deenum Gahbri: [00:16:19] Is that something that you really enjoy?

Sonia Janday: [00:16:21] Mmmm. [Laughter]  

Sometimes, sometimes not. It’s just tiring, I think when you’ve got a lot on and you think actually, I need to go to that event, but that’s one of the reasons why I joined SAL as well, just to meet more people. 

Rob Hanna: [00:16:34] And as we said at the top, I mean, you’ve worked with some super impressive firms as well. You were with Herbert Smith 

Sonia Janday: [00:16:38] I did. 

Rob Hanna: [00:16:38] Freehills now of course.

Sonia Janday: [00:16:39] Qualified there.

Rob Hanna: [00:16:40] Qualified there indeed. You know, what do you most, what did you most enjoy about your time in private practice? Again, maybe people thinking about sort of thinking about maybe back to in house from, in house, private practice or people going through their journey. What did you most enjoy? 

Sonia Janday: [00:16:55] The work, the work was really good. The training was fab. The team was brilliant. Um, I think the comradery you get in private practice as well. So, you’re all working on transactions. Similar hours. End of the evening. You’ll go downstairs like at Herbie’s we’re quite lucky we had restaurants on site.

So, you’d go down for dinner. Have a snack, come back up, finish your work. The Typing support is really good. [Laughter] Its support is really good cause you don’t get a lot of that in house sometimes. Um, but sort of sort of little things like that really, yeah.

Deenum Gahbri: [00:17:29] Can you see yourself maybe ever going back to private practice?

Sonia Janday: [00:17:34] I don’t know. I’d consider it. If the opportunity came along, I always say, never say no, always say yes. If I make a mistake, I’ll learn from it. If I don’t make a mistake and I do well then yeah, that’s really great. Just to move on. 

Rob Hanna: [00:17:48] Yeah. Well said. I can’t believe how much I said in your introduction, you do all that already. So, I don’t know when we next have you on, whether we will be able to fit it all in, but we’ve been asking everyone their sort of plans and vision for 2020. No doubt you’ve got loads of exciting plans, but what are you sort of, what have you got geared up for the new year that you’re passionate about or what sort of tell people about?

Sonia Janday: [00:18:09] Um, I was going to say sleep [Laughter] More than two or three hours!

I don’t know.  I just no, I haven’t thought about it. I think I’ve just got to the point at the moment where this year, the last few months I’ve been a panel speaker for InterLaw, which is something I never thought I do. I never thought I’d do the podcast and I never thought I’d win an award. So, for me, I’m just kind of reflecting in that and how I got here before even thinking, what is coming in 2020.

Deenum Gahbri: [00:18:42] So Sonia, I know, um, I think when we last met, um, at your offices in Aviva, you guys were planning the Diwali celebrations. You had a lot, there was a lot going on. Do you want to maybe kind of give us some information on, you know, what was happening there? 

Sonia Janday: [00:18:54] So, um, for Diwali, we’ve had a couple of years, we’ve had really small celebrations, which are getting bigger and bigger a bit like our awards. [Laughter]

So yeah. So, the day, I think the day you came to our offices, we just had our Diwali event. So it was, um, one of the biggest ones actually, we had a lot of dancers and we had a lot of staff getting up and having dancing lessons. We had Indian sweets and samosa being handed out all throughout the building.

And, um, it’s just to raise an awareness of what Diwali means to people, to, to staff members. And I suppose the reason that we do a lot of events and celebrate a lot of festivals as Aviva, we need to be reflective of our customers, but we also need to be reflective of our staff. So, it’s just to raise an awareness and educational piece to other people that maybe won’t have that, um, when they leave the office or learn about it or have any input celebrations like that.

Deenum Gahbri: [00:19:57] I think it’s great. I think it was great. I think I just missed it. 

Sonia Janday: [00:20:00] Literally! I think about half an hour. 

Deenum Gahbri: [00:20:02] No, it looked amazing. 

Sonia Janday: [00:20:03] Yeah. So, there’s always things in the diary. 

Rob Hanna: [00:20:07] That’s really interesting. Just looping back to when you made the comment about IT in private practice versus in house. Cause we did a recording the other week around legal tech and how that’s creeping in.

Do you want to talk about your experiences with legal tech versus, you know, being in private practice versus being in house and whether you’re Pro Tech or whether you’re anti-Tech?

Sonia Janday: [00:20:29] Absolutely. I suppose the support you get on the IT front in house, in private practice, there’s a lot of the bigger firms. I know Herbies did, we had 24 hour typing support. We had 24-hour IT so if something goes wrong, you can pick up the phone at any time of day or night. And we do get the 24-hour IT support with Aviva, but you’re phoning a line, you can’t actually go to somebody and see somebody downstairs, like where we would have the IT guys. Um, so that’s sometimes quite difficult if you’re working on a really big transaction. 

In terms of other support, we are, in house often you are restricted by budget and costs. So, something might be really nice that other firms have got, and we’re working against with other panel firms that you might necessarily not necessarily have it just because of the cost restraints. And we don’t have the secretarial support. So, you do your own typing in house.

Deenum Gahbri: [00:21:25] Do you miss that from private practice?

Sonia Janday: [00:21:29] A little bit, but I type really fast. [Laughter]

Rob Hanna: [00:21:31] You type when you sleep for two hours, right?

Deenum Gahbri: [00:21:34] Three actually.

Rob Hanna: [00:21:36] Someone’s listening. [laughter]

 Okay. And we get asked a lot of common questions from a newly qualified lawyers and because you’ve seen it from both sides in house versus private practice, do you think, uh, upon qualifying people should be considering an in house career or do you think people would benefit from getting more private practice experience going in, or is it a case by case basis?

Sonia Janday: [00:21:55] I think it’s always better just staying in private practice for a little while before moving in house, purely because you’re going to get really good exposure to different things. Um, you’ll be confident in them. You become an expert in particular areas before you move in house. In house, the breadth of work is so broad that it’s going to be difficult to kind of familiarize yourself with one particular area. You don’t have that time. Once you’re in house, that’s it everything’s going to come your way. It’s just being confident in what, you know, before you move. 

Rob Hanna: [00:22:33] And we always suggest that it would be great if people would even get some, some secondment experience first. Almost sort of a try it before you buy. 

Sonia Janday: [00:22:40] Yes. Yeah.

Rob Hanna: [00:22:40] So again, is that something you would advocate for people maybe if they’re sort of, I don’t know, at the 0 – 3 PQE, try before you buy?

Sonia Janday: [00:22:46] Absolutely. 

Rob Hanna: [00:22:47] If you can try and get some sort of secondment to see what it’s all about. Deenum you’ve seen a lot of that. 

Deenum Gahbri: [00:22:53] Yeah, no, definitely.

Sonia Janday: [00:22:54] Yeah get a secondment. If you like the firm, the team, then just do it.

Deenum Gahbri: [00:22:58] Yeah, but I think when you’re much younger, as well as an associate, I think it’s always good to kind of, you know, have the kind of buzz in private practice first before, you know, you do decide to move in house. 

Sonia Janday: [00:23:08] Absolutely.

Rob Hanna: [00:23:10] What do you think are some of the challenges for people who are in private practice trying to get into in house? What do people need to be thinking about? Um, as potential challenges. Yeah. 

Sonia Janday: [00:23:21] I think one of them is the fact that when you’re in house, you are working with the client. And so, any advice that you give you’re advising your client, and they’re going to take that on board. A particular kind of, if they ask you a question, you need to give a response, but in private practice you can stand on the fence a little bit, sit on the fence.

So, you’ll give them the options. And they make the decision, but when you’re in house, you kind of have to, you can lead a decision. And the client takes that on board. 

Rob Hanna: [00:23:55] Yeah. 

Sonia Janday: [00:23:55] So it’s, it’s completely different to being in private practice is really good. You get to know your client really well. You know what they’ll accept what they won’t accept, how far you can push them.

But at the end of the day, you’re going to help them make that decision rather than just giving them advice. And then they go away and think about it. 

Deenum Gahbri: [00:24:14] If you could change any parts of your current role, what would it be?

Sonia Janday: [00:24:17] Money.


Rob Hanna: [00:24:22] We love honesty!

Sonia Janday: [00:24:25] Oh gosh, I’ll get shot for that. I don’t think there’s anything, you know. I always thought when – 

Rob Hanna: [00:24:32] Great recovery.  [Laughter] 

Sonia Janday: [00:24:33] Well no, when I moved in house, I always thought when, when I started my career, I’ve been in places two or three years, two years, two, three years. It’s the kind of done thing when you’re in London, you’ll move, you’ll get experience and then you’ll move somewhere else and you’ll get a bit more experienced and you further your career that way. When I moved in house, I actually thought that I would be there two to five years tops and it’s coming on 15 and that’s saying something. The work is brilliant. The client is just amazing. And the people that I have on the other side of transactions are partners. So, it tells you the quality of the work that we do in our team.

Deenum Gahbri: [00:25:10] What would you say you enjoy the most? 

Sonia Janday: [00:25:13] Our clients really good. That makes a really big difference. You get on with them.

Rob Hanna: [00:25:19] And I’m just quite intrigued because we get lots of people who are so transfixed on London, but actually, you know, you’re working for a major organization outside of London. And for people that think, ‘I’ve got to stay in London, I’ve got to be in London it’s where the hot’, yes, there is undoubtedly good quality work in London, but there’s still great opportunities elsewhere in the UK right? 

Sonia Janday: [00:25:37] There is. 

Rob Hanna: [00:25:37] Yeah, you’ve seen that out in Norwich and the quality of what you’re getting involved in is equally, if not on par with the work you were doing in London, right?

Sonia Janday: [00:25:44] Absolutely. I think if you’ve got the right job and you’re getting the exposure to the right piece of work, then move, even if it’s going to be temporary, you don’t have to do anything forever. Um, get your experience. Um, and then, you know Norwich is only a two-hour train journey away. So, it’s not like on the other end of the world either.

Deenum Gahbri: [00:26:03] But you drive down, don’t you?

Sonia Janday: [00:26:05] [Laughter] Yeah, I drive down, I love my driving. So yes. Yeah. I drive or get the train. 

Rob Hanna: [00:26:12] And as I said, we, we personally, Deenum and I think your superwoman, but in terms of, you know, nothing to do with your legal sort of pursuits and extracurricular, what’d you do for downtime? What keeps, you know, Sonia?

Sonia Janday: [00:26:24] Netflix. [Laughter] 

Deenum Gahbri: [00:26:26] That’s why you don’t sleep!

Sonia Janday: [00:26:28] Netflix, and listening to music, I think. That helps me relax. 

Rob Hanna: [00:26:32] So I’m watching White Collar at the moment. Does anyone, has anyone seen White Collar?

Deenum Gahbri: [00:26:35] I think I’ve seen A episode.

Rob Hanna: [00:26:38] I’m trying to get into that a little bit. So, what do you watch on Netflix? 

Sonia Janday: [00:26:41] I’ve just started watching Traveler’s actually. 

Rob Hanna: [00:26:45] Oooh good?

Sonia Janday: [00:26:45] Yeah, good. I’m only on my third episode though, so I’m gonna save it for the journey back. [Laughter]

Rob Hanna: [00:26:52] Yeah, exactly. I think from our side, that’s kind of very insightful, really good stuff. Is there any sort of passing or lasting comments you’d like to say about sort of in house versus pirate practice? So, people listening in considering one over the other, is there anything you would say as a sort of final comment to those people?

Sonia Janday: [00:27:09] I think if you are thinking of a move in house, then speak to as many in house, always as you can and get an idea of what they do because each team is different. So, the more you do that, the more you get some insight before you make that decision. 

Rob Hanna: [00:27:26] Great stuff. Well can I just say, Deenum, I’m delighted to finally have you on the podcast with me today. Sonia, Congratulations. Once again, I think it’s going to be a hell of a year to trump, 2019. Congratulations on everything you’ve achieved. Thanks so much. Thank our listeners. We’re really grateful for that. And, uh, yeah, I guess we should, uh, wish you all the best for 2020. 

Sonia Janday: [00:27:45] Thank you ever so much. 

Deenum Gahbri: [00:27:46] Thank you for joining Sonia. 

Sonia Janday: [00:27:47] Thank you.

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