Heriot Brown

We talk everything from tax, tech, and ‘bluffing it’, to Bergdorf Goodman, flowers and of course ice cream!


How did you land your first role in-house?

I qualified in 2002 and an opportunity with a client of my firm came up for a General Counsel at an AIM listed sports events company. I met them and they offered me the job- it was only afterwards that they actually asked how qualified I was! It was a baptism of fire- I was 26 and I had to grow up fast. It forced me to build my confidence (or to bluff it!) and to have the self-assurance to say “I don’t know the answer and I’ll come back to you”, which I think is probably one of the most important lessons to learn in house. I learnt fast to approach legal issues in a very commercial way.

I decided to go back into private practice, which is obviously unusual, to build expertise in the M&A work I had loved doing, but always with the intention to ultimately end up back in house.

Has your in-house journey been a leap or a climb?

Both. I’d say both my moves from private practice to in-house were very much leaps and since then it has been a climb. My second move in-house (more than a decade after the first) saw me joining King as Head of Corporate as they were about to kick off a New York Stock Exchange IPO.

I led King’s NYSE IPO in 2013 and $5.9m sale to Activision Blizzard in 2016. My FARFETCH role was also initially to lead their NYSE IPO. Since then, my role has grown into a Deputy GC role- building the legal team out from 10 when I joined to over 80 now, in 7 countries.

What is the most interesting piece of information you have realised you didn’t know you didn’t know about FARFETCH?

Definitely the complexity of the business.

The business, particularly now, but even when I joined five years ago, is considerably more complex than the FARFETCH marketplace, which is generally what consumers see. The FARFETCH Group also comprises Browns (a multi brand boutique retail business), Stadium Goods (a sneaker marketplace), New Guards Group (a platform for the development of global fashion brands) and FARFETCH Platform Solutions (which services enterprise clients with e-commerce and technology capabilities). This technology powers Harrods.com and is replatforming Bergdorf Goodman and recently signed a huge deal with Richemont to replatform all of their luxury fashion brands.

As VP Group Legal of FARFETCH, is there anything wish you didn’t have so much knowledge about?

Probably Tax! I actually love the complexity of tax, which people think it’s a weird thing, but I am good with numbers (perhaps unusually for a lawyer!) and Tax is a factor in virtually everything, from transactional work to equity, so I feel like I end up having quite a lot of latent knowledge about Tax.

What piece of advice has stuck with you since your TC days?

Not a piece of advice but an anecdote which I’ve recounted multiple times!

When I was very junior I was on a call for an M&A transaction with multiple clients and advisors on both sides. A question came up around distributable reserves and the partner I was with said she’d have to refer to her tax colleagues and revert. After the call, she asked for my take on the question around distributable reserves and I sheepishly explained that I didn’t understand the relevance to tax. She explained that she didn’t think there was any, had not understood the issue and that it’s a sort of “wild card” comment that’s understood between advisors and can be played if you don’t want to look foolish in front your client and theirs. It’s something I’ll never forget! It really humanised the partner role for me and made me realise that you don’t at some point just wake up and know all answers! Twenty years on I certainly know that to be true!

What advice would you give to someone looking to make the jump now?

I think figuring out what is what is important to you in a company is essential.

Whether it’s a company that has a grandiose mission that that you believe in, or a company operating in a sector that you are a consumer in, you need to understand and believe in what the company is doing.

The other really important thing is finding a company that has a culture that fits how you think. For example, it will always be incongruous to be in a company where the culture is too, or insufficiently, structured. It’s obviously difficult to get a proper sense of culture during an interview process, but I would urge anyone thinking of making a move to spend as much time as possible figuring out the culture and finding a company that is doing something that you are truly passionate about.

What do you miss about private practice?

It has been more than a decade so not much- certainly not time recording!

I do miss having access to a huge bank of tried and tested precedents at times, but then, a lot of the stuff that we do is so innovative that there isn’t a precedent anyway. I also miss wearing a suit sometimes! At FARFETCH people can wear absolutely anything they like, but I think If I were to turn up in a suit it would certainly raise a few eyebrows!

Do you have a work-life balance?

I’m certainly more in control of my life as a client than I was as a private practice lawyer, but part of that comes with seniority. It also comes with having the confidence to know that the world is not going to stop spinning if I don’t immediately respond to an email or pick up a call, and that gives a sense of freedom. FARFETCH is very supportive of flexible working. It’s in no way 9-5 terms of hours, but it definitely offers genuine flexibility to work at times that suit, which is great, especially with a family.

Tell us about your consultancy role with Bloom & Wild

I have an advisory role which allows me to apply my knowledge in a very different way to my FARFETCH role. It’s a strategic and non-legal role advising on growth and I absolutely love working with the Bloom & Wild team. FARFETCH is very supportive of people having non-competitive outside interests which I think smart way of keeping people really engaged.

And finally, what is your favourite ice cream?

I love this question, mostly because I am a big ice cream fan. My favourite ice cream is Häagen Dazs Salted Caramel. It’s amazing, with caramel nuggets and swirls of sauce and I generally don’t keep it in my freezer as it doesn’t last long. This summer in Greece, I had a mandarin sorbet which is one of those memories I will store for when I need a sunny memory of deliciousness!