The call of the wild
For alumna Daina Bray, now general counsel at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, being at Freshfields was one of the ‘high points’ of her career.
I still think back to the mentorship I received at Freshfields. I think, in particular, about Lucy Reed. Lucy was in the New York office when I started, leading the international arbitration group (IAG) there. She was an incredibly inspirational leader; bold and fearless with great strategic vision. I also think fondly of Reza Mohtashami. He’s very sharp and a standout lawyer. They are both also a lot of fun. I still model my behaviours after both of them. In my work, I think on a fairly regular basis: What would Lucy do? What would Reza do?
Freshfields influenced the path I took. One of the main reasons I got my job as general counsel of an international non-profit was because of my experience with Freshfields’ IAG. We’d work seamlessly around the world overnight for the client, across different time zones, so I now know what’s possible with a well-functioning, international, virtual team. That’s something I bring to my work every day with the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
In some ways, a working day now is similar to that of any in-house lawyer or GC. You’re dealing with whatever comes through the door, from employment law matters to contract negotiation, corporate governance and insurance coverage. But what’s fun about my job is that everything I’m doing is in support of this amazing work that the organisations do for animal welfare.
There are some fantastic stories behind the things I work on. I could be reviewing the insurance provision of a contract, which is something in-house lawyers do every day, but it’s a contract to relocate a tiger from a failed sanctuary to a sanctuary that meets animal welfare standards. Or I’m considering an economic sanctions issue, but it’s in support of trying to lawfully get goods into a sanctioned country to assist animals in distress. When an animal is rescued as a result of a project that I helped support, that gives me tremendous satisfaction.
I love using my corporate and commercial law skills for animal welfare. It’s a mission I feel so passionately about. I also love interacting with my colleagues – people who are out on the beach rescuing a stranded marine mammal, responding to the scene of a natural disaster or assisting at an elephant orphanage project. It’s very inspiring to interact with my colleagues every day and to use my legal skills to support them.
Moving in-house has been a learning curve. Now my biggest challenge is deciding how to spend my team’s limited time and the limited resources we have as a non-profit. I have to question how deeply to delve into a certain issue, how much time is merited for a particular risk and, if there is significant risk, how likely it is to occur. When you’re outside counsel working in big teams on big cases, you turn over every stone. As an in-house lawyer there are efficiency and focus considerations that are really central. So that’s been my biggest learning curve.
The dispute resolution work I did at Freshfields gave me invaluable skills. The stakes are high and there are incredibly smart lawyers on both sides of the table. They don’t miss a thing. Working in DR at Freshfields trained me to produce a very high standard of work.
People are so impressed by Freshfields. Having an affiliation with such an extraordinary law firm has helped me to promote myself. I had the opportunity to work on cases where we’d meet with government officials all over the world – if you’d have told me when I was at high school that I would have had those opportunities, I wouldn’t have believed you. Freshfields is definitely one of the high points of my career.