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
Jenny Zhao is the Chief Commercial Officer at Farewill. Farewill is a business that provides will-writing, probate, and cremation services in the UK. Before joining Farewill, Jenny worked as Bulb’s VP international, responsible for business growth in France, Spain and US.
What does your day-to-day look like? Which teams report to you?
I’m the Chief Commercial Officer at Farewill. My responsibilities centre around the ultimate profit and loss of the company. I lead the marketing, partnerships, sales and operations teams - so my day can be quite varied.
Before you worked with lawyers, what was your perception of them?
I’ve actually always admired lawyers - I grew up in New Zealand, and law was the subject the really intelligent people studied. My only negative prior perception was that they often took a while to get to the point!
Lawyers are at their most effective when they can distil complex legal information, and then communicate it to the business in an accessible way
How often do you work with legal at Farewill? On what kind of projects?
At Farewill, our mission is to change the way the world deals with death. Two of our core products are wills and probate - so legal is really core to the overall business.
I might collaborate with legal on projects around business strategy - for example, I recently worked with legal on establishing the pricing for our wills product and developing our competitive advantage versus other providers in the industry.
Other points we may tackle together include:
- Exploring how we’re positioned in the market
- Developing digital tools for internal sales, ops, and legal teams
- Improving governance and encouraging better consumer outcomes
What kind of soft skills do lawyers need to work effectively at a scaleup?
Empathy is super important, especially in a business like ours, dealing with the sensitive issue of death.
There’s an element of customer-centricity that is also really valuable at any scaling business. Our legal team often gets involved in helping with user journeys that safeguard the customer - and it’s useful to have a fresh perspective on this.
Finally, communication is a must have. Lawyers are at their most effective when they can distil complex legal information, and then communicate it to the business in an accessible way.
What are the key takeaways? What commercial impact do those findings have? And crucially, what do we need to do about it?
I’m incredibly proud of the legal team at Farewill - they’re some of the most brilliant communicators I’ve ever worked with.
Lawyers that have a real drive and ambition to make the industry a better place generally find ways to enable others to do their best work
What does poor collaboration look like?
Poor collaboration often occurs when commercial teams don’t involve legal teams early enough.
For example, if teams move ahead and potentially do something that isn’t in the consumer’s best interest, legal has to step in and we have to start again. It’s usually such a pleasure to work with legal at Farewill that this doesn’t happen often.
And what can legal do to enable you to do your best work?
Lawyers that have a real drive and ambition to make the industry a better place generally find ways to enable others to do their best work.
These individuals are real business partners, capable of both big-picture thinking as well as flawless execution that deliver good customer outcomes.
Enjoyed this interview? Want to hear from other C-suite leaders on how they interact with legal? Read the collection in full: 'What the business wants from legal in 2023'.