In this series of interviews with legal's key internal clients, we learn all about what effective collaboration looks like, what 'excellent' looks like, and what ultimately they want from their legal colleagues. Read the whole collection here: Enabling The Business
Keji Ajayi was formerly the Chief Financial Officer at Topi. Topi is a scaleup creating tech infrastructure that will allow any retailer or manufacturer to offer Hardware-as-a-Service to business customers.
You’ve worked with lawyers for well over 16 years - what’s your perception of them?
Legal and finance work hand in hand. Ultimately, they’re working for the same purpose: to protect the company and to ensure that the company can meet its strategic objectives.
Finance is looking at it from a commercial perspective, while legal is approaching from a law perspective, but the end goal is the same. I definitely need lawyers to be able to do my job well!
How often do you work with legal at Topi?
Topi is eight months old, and we’ve just hired Saman Harris, our first lawyer. At this stage, we communicate almost every day - there’s a lot of infrastructure we’re still working on together.
How can legal enable you to do your best work?
Being able to translate legal issues into language that either protects the company or provides the flexibility that the company needs is super important.
There’s a ton of translation work that goes hand in hand with finance work; from identifying an issue to figuring out how to resolve it, to defining the process in a document like a lending agreement template that the business can access.
What kind of soft skills do lawyers need?
Communication is key, especially in a startup environment, where people are likely working with legal for the first time.
Lawyers need to be able to tailor the message to suit the audience - what’s the issue? In its simplest terms, why is this a problem? Why does it concern your team?
They need to be able to explain complex legal issues in a way that is easy for the business to understand.
Communication is key, especially in a startup environment, where people are likely working with legal for the first time
What can finance do to enable legal?
That communication point works both ways! In order to enable legal, finance needs to explain the key commercial issues that are important to them - the must-haves in any project, commercial contract, and so on.
Finance can offer legal the ability to look at a contract, for example, through the lens of the business’ non-negotiables - and this can help lawyers serve us better and offer more robust legal advice.
Those commercial issues need to be front-of-mind for lawyers, and finance can help legal out by framing the problem with the right focus.
Find out more about what business leaders expect of their legal team - read the collection in full: 'What the business wants from legal in 2023'.