In the Spotlight: Sarah White, Xero

In the Spotlight: Sarah White, Xero

We talk with Sarah White, General Manager - Legal and Business Advisory, Xero about her role working across a globally distributed legal function.

What does your day job as GM Legal and Business Advisory at Xero involve?

I really enjoy my job at Xero as I get to work with a fantastic global legal team on interesting and diverse projects. Like many inhouse lawyers, I’m involved in a huge variety of initiatives ranging from establishing flexible commercial contracting models through to growing Xero’s App Ecosystem.

Given the impact of Covid-19 on our customers, it’s been important to provide agile legal support, pivoting to focus on new projects to help our customers. A couple of examples include working with the Education and Marketing Teams to stand up the “Behind Small Business Hub” (which provided Covid-19 information and resources) and turning our Xerocon annual event into an online event (Xero on Air).

What is the biggest challenge in your role and how are you tackling it?

Two of the biggest challenges are getting our resourcing model right and making sure we’re working on the high value, strategic work which supports Xero to deliver its strategic priorities. Something that helps us do this is our Business Partnering model as it gives us insights and connections across Xero. We are also proactive about how we resource projects, making sure we have the right mix of local/global legal support as well as subject matter expertise when we need it.

How do you co-ordinate across Xero’s globally distributed legal function to ensure consistency of approach and advice?

At Xero we have lots of large global projects so it’s really important to work collaboratively across the Legal Team and across Xero. We use technology to connect and collaborate (eg Slack). We challenge ourselves to think about how we can make our advice scalable, repeatable and applicable at a global level. We also create “playbooks” and use natural language to make sure our advice is easily digestible.

You were practising in-house in London from 2002 to 2013. Did you notice any significant differences between the in-house legal professions in New Zealand and the UK?

The concept of the “alternative legal service provider” was available in the UK much earlier than NZ. So personally it was very useful to work within that model as it provides great flexibility and the ability to scale up and down as required and tap into some fantastic legal talent.

What was your highlight and lowlight over lockdown?

I feel very grateful to live in New Zealand with the freedom of movement we have here post lockdown. I’m very conscious of this when talking to some of our Team who are based in the UK and the USA. My personal highlight was spending more time with my children and getting to know their personalities even better.

My lowlight was missing out on wider family events - though we had some pretty fun Google hangouts and gin o’clock catch ups!