How GCs can tackle key challenges with Weetabix Head of Legal Helen Wilson

23rd February 2024

General Counsel and their legal teams are facing challenging times but how can they tackle the key issues? As part of our Counsel+ forum, we heard from the Weetabix Head of Legal, Helen Wilson, on a number of crucial topics and how best to deliver what the business needs.

Helen shared her pearls of wisdom with Blake Morgan Corporate Partner, Gemma Spiceley, during the webinar on 6th February 2024.

As an experienced lawyer, having spent time in private practice before moving in-house, and now in her sixth year at Weetabix, it was fascinating to hear from Helen. She gave insights into:

  • how to do more with less budget and managing C-Suite expectations;
  • using technology to drive efficiencies and improve visibility of legal matters across the business;
  • how to stay ‘business as usual’ with supply issues and cost inflation; and
  • keeping in-house colleagues motivated in challenging times.

Meeting business needs

The challenges for legal teams have been relentless in recent years, from the Covid-19 pandemic to the war in the Ukraine and rising inflation, there have been numerous obstacles.

The need for in-house teams to be more commercially-minded and think about cost efficiencies was highlighted along with the importance of fitting in with the business needs. Helen stated:

We are a support team within the business. We have got to be in-sync with the business and the business’ goals and deal with the challenges and needs.

Prioritisation is key according to Helen. In-house legal teams need to consider the experience and capacity levels they have in the team and deal with requests from the business based on business priorities rather than immediately actioning every ‘urgent’ request from internal stakeholders. Helen explained that the internal client’s ‘important’ shouldn’t necessarily become the team’s ‘urgent’ and business objectives need to be considered first.

Working efficiently

A number of ways to work more efficiently were mentioned, including:

  • Meetings – look at ways of generating more time and redirecting those non-efficient meetings so that you can do more legal work.
  • Hybrid working – this helps balance between getting work done and collaborating with stakeholders when in the office.
  • Training – training the team is an obvious way to develop skills. There is a need to be trained in the right areas that the stakeholders require.
  • Teaching – teaching and developing skills such as resilience and agility for the legal team. Plans often change with work coming in but you can teach the team what to do and how to cope with demands. Try to encourage accountability and responsibility.
  • Education – if you can develop internal know-how and educate the business to do certain tasks, it will reduce the work for the legal team to do. It is a matter of how you bucket up work in terms of value and risk, and redistribute it so that you can meet the challenge of rising workloads.

Impact of technology and investment

A strapline used at Weetabix is ‘better data, for better decisions’. Using that will assist with prioritisation and the business case. Helen commented:

“Investing in technology can help you demonstrate the value-add to the business. It helps deliver on a business objective and ignores some of the noise.”

She added: “The use of technology and AI to drive efficiencies helps. We’ve been looking at changing processes to see how time can be saved.”

“Using legal tech has been a real differentiator.”

Helen went on to praise the use of a matter management tool and recommended others to look at using them. It has proved to be transformational for Weetabix and particularly helpful for client service. It allows everyone in the legal team to have visibility to the status of the work in the team, so updates on progress are at their fingertips.

The use of artificial intelligence has been occasional but contract management tools have proved useful. “AI doesn’t have the business sense that lawyers do. You’ve got to move with the times but not let it take over,” remarked Helen.

Stakeholder expectations

Helen highlighted that C-Suites are under pressure to deliver for stakeholders and to continue to move at pace in an ever-changing environment, including embracing Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG), diversity and inclusion (D&I), look at efficiencies all whilst turning the right amount of profit. Support teams need to adapt to work at that same pace to meet those expectations.

A legal team that can adapt to the pace of change and is practiced in crisis management will help. She also commented on the need for hierarchical C-Suites to adapt and empower the business. This will aid the business to be more agile in general.

Being practiced in crisis management, so that it becomes business continuity rather than disaster management, is crucial. You need to ask the question, what is the next issue and how is your business prepared to manage it?

How to keep colleagues motivated through challenging times

Be authentic, bring yourself to work was the message from Helen. She commented: “We are all emotional, have different drivers, different goals. Listening and hearing, taking time to explain becomes really important. Don’t wait for the one-to-ones, share those pearls of wisdom. We’ve worked hard to foster an open environment. We are all working hard but learning along the way. Involving the team has been really important, particularly in asking what tools we need.”

She spoke about ‘O-shaped lawyers’, well-rounded lawyers that can problem-solve, simplify and collaborate. In-house lawyers have become generalist lawyers that know a lot, but not necessarily in-depth like in private practice.

Something that is helping the legal team at Weetabix is a people strategy – training business and legal skills, empowering teams and individuals. Having learning content readily available and regular communication is key, along with technical objectives to stretch individuals.

“We try to encourage outside-in, going to private practice webinars,” commented Helen.

Keeping on top of training and business skills and legal skills is really important.

There’s a great benefit in having private practice experience to be a great in-house lawyer.

“A growth mindset is really important. Adapt and learn. You need to be an enabler, not a blocker. A glass half full type of lawyer.”

She added: “Work hard, play hard mentality with a lot of networks. It is also great to have trusted external lawyers on the end of the phone as well. They understand the pace and timeframe of the business.

“How can we as a legal team fulfil those business objectives? Sometimes it needs to be progress not perfection to get stuff done. However, that decision depends on the level of risk.”

Being an enabler, not a blocker means more collaboration with the C-Suite. There is an obvious need to highlight risks but still get work done and work collaboratively with the C-Suite, external lawyers and your networks.


If you are an in-house lawyer, sign up to our Counsel+ Forum to benefit from the learning resources and networking opportunities. Blake Morgan run a series of webinars and exclusive events, which you can find out more about here.

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