Find a job you love: SJ interview
This issue, Chaynee Hodgetts interviews Nicola Pearson, Legal Counsel with Lovehoney
Since its inception in 2002 by Neal Slateford and Richard Longhurst, Lovehoney has been shaking up the sexual wellness sector, aiming to bring equality to the market, and make it less male-centric and more open to all. Now operating in the UK, USA and Australia (and using discreet brown packaging), their approach appears to have worked – with the company consistently achieving an array of industry and global awards for retail, trade, and innovation – including two Queen's Awards for Enterprise.
The company has over 300 employees, with customer service provision from speakers of English, French, German, Dutch, Spanish and Welsh speakers, among others – and in a modern approach to contract law, they also provide a one year guarantee on their products. The company are also recognised as Diversity Champions, promoting LGBTQ+ inclusivity.
Nicola Pearson is Legal Counsel and Data Protection Officer (DPO) to Lovehoney – and is based in the UK. Prior to joining the company, she worked for in-house legal departments for over five years.
CH: Thank you for talking to us, Nicola! Please tell us about yourself and your current role?
NP: My name is Nicola and I am Legal Counsel and DPO of Lovehoney. I have worked for Lovehoney for 2 years now, which I started in the height of the pandemic when, understandably, business was booming for the company. I was brought on board to set up and run the legal department – which was a lot of fun, and a great challenge for me.
My role involves managing all matters that the Lovehoney comes across, both nationally and internationally. Since the merger with WowTech, which created the Lovehoney Group. I work with the Group General Counsel on matters that may impact the Lovehoney Group – and continue my work as Legal Counsel to Lovehoney.
CH: What does your company do – and what does your company do differently?
NP: Lovehoney is the world leader in sexual happiness and wellbeing. It stocks and sells a range of products – and shares a wealth of content that help people lead a happy and fulfilling sex life. With this year marking Lovehoney’s 20th birthday, the company is proud of the work it has done in normalising the topic of sexual wellbeing – and making it a more widely discussed topic in the mainstream.
CH: Which qualifications and places of study led you to the role you're in today?
NP: I started off with the 'traditional’ (if you like) solicitor qualification route. After finishing my A-Levels at my school’s sixth form college, I completed my undergraduate Law degree at Bangor University, obtaining a 2:1. From University, I went on to complete my LPC at the University of Law’s Chester campus. After the LPC, and a bit of a break, I started to build up experience through in-house roles which have led me to where I am today.
CH: How did your career path unfold?
NP: Once I had completed my LPC, I took some time out and away from law, as I had a rough time through university with ill-health, due to a disability and some other personal circumstances. At the time, I was not sure I wanted to continue with the legal career I had always dreamt of – but then after that time away I decided to give it another go.
During my undergraduate and postgraduate studies, I had worked with start-ups, which is something I really enjoyed, so I began to look for in-house roles. Eventually I landed a role in a local government legal department as a legal assistant – and I realised I started to enjoy law again.
After a year in local government, I started to look elsewhere – and a paralegal role was being advertised for the British fashion brand Mulberry. Much to my amazement, I got the job, and absolutely loved working for the company in a small legal team under the most supportive and incredibly talented boss.
Around two years later, I was approached by Lovehoney to interview for a paralegal role, and the prospect of working for a company with which I share values was such an amazing opportunity. After one and a half years as a paralegal, I was promoted to Legal Counsel – and shortly afterwards, I became DPO for the company too.
CH: What do you enjoy most about what you do?
NP: I enjoy being fully involved in the company’s work and values. I often see projects from the start to completion. I find it satisfying fully seeing the outcomes of the advice and effort I put into the work I do. Working in-house is full on, but I enjoy working under that pressure and managing the workload effectively so that I am able to limit risks for the company whilst enabling projects to go ahead.
CH: What do you find most challenging about what you do?
NP: Definitely the broad knowledge base needed! I find it really interesting bringing all my legal knowledge to one role – and I love the challenge of going and researching queries and issues – but I do not have all the answers. Learning to say ‘I don’t know’ or ‘This is beyond my remit’ has been something I have had to learn is okay – and I am now comfortable saying that. Now, having the small, but slightly bigger, legal team has allowed me to bounce interpretations around, which has been really useful – especially where we have more international contacts as the business grows.
CH: What is a typical working day like for you?
NP: I work from home most of the time, so I start work around 7.30am - 8am, by checking my e-mails and assessing what is urgent for the day. I will respond to external lawyers, and chase anything needed for the upcoming week first – before moving on to contract reviews, or policy and terms and conditions drafting.
After lunch I check the GDPR inbox, and if anything has come in, I will work on that for the next hour. For the remainder of the afternoon, I will either be reviewing and drafting, or completing research. I will have a few catch ups with different colleagues during the day via video link – and I usually have a call with my boss at some point during the day to discuss a piece of work we are completing together. Also, around once a week, I usually attend a webinar on a relevant legal area that impacts the business. I usually log off anywhere between 5.30pm and 6pm.
CH: Where do you see your company heading in the next few years?
NP: With the sexual wellness market due to exceed $64bn by the end of 2022 (technavio.com/report/global-sexual-wellness-market-analysis-share-2018), there are plenty of opportunities for the Lovehoney Group to grow internationally. The brand will continue to be the world leaders in sexual happiness, synonymous with a healthy, happy sex life, in a world where people are confident to explore and discover new ways to have fun.
CH: What are your hopes for the future in your sector?
NP: My hopes for the future of the sexual wellness sector are that people will feel more empowered and informed about their bodies and decisions surrounding their sex lives. I hope the sector will continue to remove the shame and stigma in talking about sex, as it is a natural process. Inclusivity is something that the sector is working on, but I would love to see more of a range of people, including those with disabilities.
CH: What are the main projects you are working on at the moment?
NP: I am mainly working on internal projects at the moment. Since the creation of the Lovehoney Group, we have been working hard to align processes, policies and procedures across the group. This work covers everything from HR policies, to legal review processes, to intellectual property registration decisions. It is a big undertaking, with the day-to-day work alongside it, but we are slowly updating and streamlining our internal workings as a team.
CH: What would your advice be to new starters in your role?
NP: My advice would be to learn about the business and why it does what it does. Learn about the journey it took to where it is now – and ask questions about where the business is heading. I find with in-house work it is easier to enjoy and get stuck into your work when you are passionate about what the company does, and you understand where you fit in to that picture.
Also definitely work on building connections with the other teams internally – it certainly helps when your workload is building up, or you need to find some information quickly. Luckily, everyone at Lovehoney was really welcoming and helpful when I started.
CH: What do you do to ensure work-life balance when you're not working?
NP: Working from home, or flexible working, means it is very easy to jump back on after dinner or check your emails on a Sunday night and not entirely switch off from work mode. I am definitely guilty of this at times. I do make a conscious effort to switch off my laptop and put it away in the evenings and on weekends. Also, planning evening activities away from the office/house also helps. I do a lot of sport, which helps me relax and stop my brain going into overdrive, so I am often found in the evening on my bike or in the pool. My weekends are used for quality time with those I love, so when I start again Monday, I feel reset and ready for the new week.
CH: What one thing do you wish you'd known before now?
NP: It may be a tad cliche, but life does not always go to plan – and that’s okay. There is no need to have X qualification, job, house, etc by a certain age. You need to do what is best for you – and working to societal pressures is exhausting. Doing what makes you happy is more important than where you think you ‘should’ be, based on someone else’s life. I think the quote is, comparison is the thief of joy…
Nicola Pearson, legal counsel of Lovehoney, was interviewed by Chaynee Hodgetts, our features & opinion editor and barrister with Libertas Chambers: lovehoney.co.uk