Commercial Awareness Talk by David Daniell
We had the pleasure of meeting David, an in-house lawyer at Thales where he provided advice on a range of issues from working with the Ministry of Defence to working on a project with the London Underground to improve signalling on the underground network. Thales also play a key role in the building of in-flight entertainment systems. David said he has benefited from covering a range of sectors; this has given him a good insight into the range of commercial and legal advice which the business needs.
David gave us an insight into his day at work. He provides advice to the business on relationships with suppliers, working collaboratively, negotiation and drafting of contracts. He talked about the challenges and rewards of his work, particularly when negotiating with large companies such as Boeing. He also stressed the importance of ensuring the business does not engage in anti-competitive practice, to ensure compliance with competition law because infringements can attract large fines.
It was interesting to hear about some of the high-profile projects David has worked on, including the government initiative a few years ago for national ID cards. Bidding for this project was particularly complex due to the levels of security needed to store this personal data. Because of this, David told us of the need to put complex legal concepts into plain English. Another project David mentioned was one with South Yorkshire Digital Region Britain. One part of this project was to introduce high speed broadband to the Yorkshire area (schools, prisons, etc.). Key legal issues which David had to consider included, (1) how the agreement would be put together and, (2) what would be the outcomes for any breach of agreement or early termination.
David outlined the key areas that he covers as a commercial lawyer, such as drafting terms and conditions and confidentiality agreements; competition law and intellectual property (IP) law (“property of the mind” copyright, patents, design, infringement). He also stressed the need to keep up to date in cyber law, which is becoming increasingly important and he views this as an amalgam of existing commercial law, IT, IP, and data protection (the Data Protection Act 1998 and forthcoming new Data Protection Regulations). David also explained that the United Kingdom has ambitions to be the safest country in which to conduct business over the internet.
David also shared his views on the key aspects of an in-house lawyer role and the need to provide support across the organisation. What the business needs from him is a range of options but with a recommendation as to which option is best to achieve the aims of a project.
David also told us about his career path. After finishing his LLB in 1995 which he really enjoyed, he did his LPC. The legal job market was difficult when he finished and he spent about 4 years trying to find a training contract. He was a paralegal at Clifford Chance before finding a training contract in the South West, where he realised that he was “probably too soft for litigation” and that what he most enjoyed was assisting clients to achieve their goals without recourse to litigation. However, he finds his role at Thales is challenging, diverse and rewarding.
We asked David for advice on our future careers. His big tip was that it is important that you are seen as supportive and approachable as well as having legal expertise. You need to be able to add value, rather than just explain the law. He recommended that we could also tune our commercial awareness by regularly reading the BBC’s business section, view comparison sites such as moneyexpert.com and keep an eye on world events through the FT. We all found the talk useful and inspiring and are really pleased we had this opportunity – thank you David.
by Thalessa Saliba, Alana Edwards & Sarah Wilkinson (Photo: Abby White)