A lawyer’s career can go through many phases. From student to law firm, to in-house counsel to lecturer - some lawyers find themselves going full circle.
But what can you learn along this journey? And what does it teach us about the future of the profession? We set out to find out from someone who has walked the walk.
Having recently founded his own law firm, we were delighted to speak with Alexandre Peron, Founder of Kingston Avocat and ex-General Counsel at fintech MANGOPAY, about his experience and hopes for the profession.
Sure. I’m Alexandre and I live in Paris. I have more than 10 years of experience, having worked as an attorney at law in different law firms and as in-house counsel in investment banks. I’ve developed a real passion for teaching and writing, and I’ve published many legal articles and two books about banking and financial law.
And now, I’m the founder of a new law firm, Kingston Avocat. In 2021, it became clear to me that I was at a key moment in my life and career. I felt that it was THE moment to create my own law firm. So, here I am, on this amazing adventure with a lot of ideas, dreams, and the stress that comes with it (laughs).
You know, all legal matters are in perpetual evolution. Every day there are new laws and regulations; and banking and financial law is no exception.
Of course, we have noticed a crazy acceleration in regulation, particularly in finance and especially since the terrorist attacks of the WTC in NYC on September 11st 2001. With this sad and horrible event, all countries realized the need to intensify the fight against money laundering, corruption, and terrorism financing. From this moment, all the Mondial and European regulators have changed a lot of rules about the way banks, investments companies, and financial markets have to operate.
Also, naturally, the financial industry is impacted by our fast-evolving society. New generations are determining the need to modernize the financial and banking bubble, which is still considered old school and overly complicated. This is where we’re seeing flexible startups in finance and banking (APIs, neobank, etc.) appear.
Our new world is based on simplicity, speed, and a new way of consumption. Traditional banks have to be aware of this evolution to propose something more competitive. People and companies want good services but in a simpler way. This includes the financial market.
It was fantastic! Firstly, tech companies represent the future of our financial world. Both CEOs and employees have a lot of ideas so you, as legal counsel, have to find a good legal way to help them achieve these. As General Counsel, you have many responsibilities, many interlocutors, and various topics to deal with - and this is very interesting. Every day was different!
From a legal perspective, this kind of business is relatively new so the regulation is not very clear or established yet. This means you have to be open-minded, creative, and capable to negotiate with regulators.
All in all, it was a very exciting experience.
Contract law is very fascinating because the majority of the rules which regulate it are the heritage of hundreds of years of history.
We can see the influence of globalization, as the way the lawyers draft today, even in France, is very influenced by English and American practices. The judicial system asks us to predict and define all the situations of the contractual relationship in the agreement. The goal is to be able to settle the majority of potential disagreements by the contractual dispositions. So, the agreements become more and more precise, getting bigger and bigger as they try to prevent future situations. You also find that this new kind of contract has many mediation and arbitration clauses to keep a judge away from a business relationship as much as possible.
We can also see that the way in-house legal counsel draft and build a contract is evolving. Before, this work was very theoretical and business teams and legal departments were not connected. Today, it’s very different. Companies have acted on the necessity to connect the two and that’s why we now say in-house legal counsel aim “to be a business partner”. This term is good because business units and legal counsel have to be connected to build a contract that is less theoretical and more closely aligned to the reality of the business.
The whole world is evolving and very fast! The legal profession is no exception. That said, evolution is not as easy as we think. Historical influences and traditions still have a huge influence.
Companies and people around the world are evolving alongside new technologies and initiatives. They have new ideas, projects and ways of working that are in contradiction with the way of most legal processes and professionals are still working.
We’re beginning to understand that a new generation is coming. A new world is around the corner and if we don’t get on board soon, it will be too late. Lawyers are increasingly adapting to this new world.
I think that we all have different opinions about the digitalization of the legal function. Some people think that in the future in-house legal counsels will be replaced by AI but I am not convinced. Even if a computer can do a lot of things, the human brain is not replaceable and you can’t resolve complicated cases with an algorithm.
That said, I think that AI and digitalization with tools like contract and legal tech will be very helpful to simplify our job.
As you say, this is very exciting - but very stressful too! I have to think about a million details, develop a good strategy and convince my clients that I can do the job as well as or better than bigger firms!
But, I love a challenge! That’s probably the fuel of my life. Equally, opening my own firm is the logical next step in my career. I know what I want, I have my own vision about how the profession has to evolve and be practiced, so it was clear to me that I had to be my own boss.
My vision is modern and my approach is relaxed. To be relaxed and accessible does not mean that the work is not serious. I work with clients that are very anxious and stressed by their work so I want to be a 2.0 attorney; fun, simple, and brilliant but without all the archaic norms.
My goal is to be a real business partner and to be part of the success of my clients. All of this but with a friendly and simple atmosphere.
Thanks to you and for the interest you have in my new challenge!
As a final note, I’d just like to say that life is short; you can be at the top of your life one day and then not the day after. We have to be who we really are, to do what we love, and to be in full connection with our values. There’s a place for everyone in this world and to be different is not negative but positive. Competition and egoism are not what will help us, but to be human, generous, serious, respectful, and connected to other people. I believe this is the key to success and happiness.