Clare Woodman delivered the keynote address on day one of our annual conference. She talks in more detail here about in-house can best add value, the importance of CSR, and career advice for those looking to step up

Could you describe your journey from in-house lawyer to senior global leader?

I began my career at Clifford Chance and so had the benefit of a really sound, in-depth training programme – a foundation that has underpinned my entire career. I moved in-house following a secondment, and it was an opportunity for my career to take a different focus and better accommodate big changes in my personal life when I became a first-time mum.

I joined the Morgan Stanley Legal Division in 2002, supporting the Sales and Trading and Global Capital Markets businesses. My role grew to encompass a large risk management component, which I found fascinating. Not long afterwards, an opportunity arose to move into Firm Management. Joining from one of our businesses, I was able to add a different perspective, and that was valued.

As CEO, first in EMEA and then globally for our Institutional Securities business, my role was to “keep the trains running on time”, and try to anticipate and address problems. After six years in a global role, I was asked to return to London to run our business in EMEA, a role in which I am responsible for the setting and delivery of our business strategy, as well as managing stakeholder advocacy across management, regional regulators, clients, employees and our local communities. Careers seem to rarely follow a linear path; it is always good to move around and be open to working in different parts of an organisation. Your experience will inform your outlook.

Can you talk a little about your expectations of your in-house legal team; how can in-house lawyers best add strategic value?

As CEO, I am now a user of our legal services and a client of the in-house legal team. In-house legal teams add the best value when they truly partner with the frontline businesses, the infrastructure areas and the management team. At Morgan Stanley, Management and Legal share a strong collaborative culture, working hand in glove with each other (and other parts of the firm) on legal, regulatory, strategic and often commercial issues. Reputational or franchise risk is fundamental to us and our business, and so Legal commands huge respect and is involved in decision-making from start to end. We don’t wait to bring in lawyers when things go wrong. Our partnership is BAU, day in day out, throughout deal flow, to better enable us to effectively solve problems and manage risk. 

It is always good to move around and be open to working in different parts of an organisation

How do you effectively promote the advancement of women and other dimensions of diversity?

Attracting, retaining and developing the best and most diverse talent is a key strategic priority. In June, we celebrated 100 years since women were able to become lawyers in the UK. Whilst we have come a long way, we still have a considerable road ahead. Today, women represent just over 60% of newly qualified solicitors, but at senior level, women account for less than 30% of all partners. The same challenges persist in banking and many other industries.

At Morgan Stanley, our commitment to an inclusive culture where everyone feels a sense of belonging and can maximise their potential, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or any other characteristic, is fundamental to driving our business forward. Proactively increasing the number of women in senior management roles and nurturing the future pipeline is an important priority for our global leadership team. I am proud that in 2016, Morgan Stanley was the first major US investment bank to sign the HM Treasury Women in Finance Charter. We have a target to achieve at least 30% female representation in UK senior management roles by January 2023. 

Significant effort is being made towards achieving greater gender balance at all levels across our businesses. We are focusing intensely on strengthening the pipeline of promotion candidates, with proactive succession planning, gender-balanced shortlists and robust leadership development initiatives. Senior management regularly discuss our high potential female talent with a focus on effective sponsorship and proactive platform planning. We are delighted to have recently added two direct diverse reports to my EMEA Management Committee – our chief financial officer and our chief information officer. Setting the tone from the top and cascading accountability to drive change is vital, together with increased transparency, regularity of metrics reporting and stretching divisional targets.

In-house legal teams add the best value when they truly partner with the frontline businesses, the infrastructure areas and the management team

How can CSR motivate and empower a team?

CSR must be part of an organisation’s DNA.

Morgan Stanley is rooted in communities around the world, which gives us a unique opportunity to commit to purposeful philanthropy and public works. My team encourages, supports and recognises employees in giving time, expertise and money to causes that matter to them. In EMEA, the Morgan Stanley International Foundation aims to increase access to children’s health and education. Our employees are instrumental in carrying out our core value of ‘giving back’. To date, we have donated more than one million hours of service through our dedicated Global Volunteer Month and additional year-round efforts.

One programme I think is unique is our annual pro-bono strategy challenge, in which teams of six mid-level volunteers from across the bank come together to solve one critical question a charity is struggling with. Through the programme, since 2009 Morgan Stanley employees have donated 108,000 pro bono hours, resulting in 142 non-profit organisations being provided with strategic action plans. 

What advice would you give for in-house lawyers who aspire to transition to senior roles?

We should all aspire to have a growth mindset every day. For me, most recently, that has meant going back to school. A few years ago, I completed an MBA with the London Business School; looking ahead, I am excited about diving further into data analytics. Outside of this, my advice is to be always the most prepared person in the room, and to seek genuine, honest feedback often. Nurture relationships not just for today, but for tomorrow’s roles. Consider how to make where you work a more human place – people will remember you and thank you for it. Explore how you can grow your skill set via broader contributions, eg securing a seat on a board.

Put simply, my advice is to (1) be prepared, (2) work hard, and (3) figure out the gaps in your skill set and how to fill them.

Who is your role model?

My mother. It wasn’t until she recently passed away that I was able to truly appreciate what she sacrificed to enable me to reach my full potential. A gift I will never forget.