Sarah Ouis: “Keep the big picture in mind: being a good legal practitioner is not enough”

Keep the big picture in mind: being a good legal practitioner is not enough. Being able to become a thought leader, inspire, network, add value to others, mentor, drive the progress forward in the industry is key component for a long term success in your area of practice. This is what I’ve been doing for […]

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Keep the big picture in mind: being a good legal practitioner is not enough. Being able to become a thought leader, inspire, network, add value to others, mentor, drive the progress forward in the industry is key component for a long term success in your area of practice. This is what I’ve been doing for years on social media by creating content to establish my profile as a lawyer who’s able to visualize the law through design. Being a top lawyer is rarely only about yourself if nobody else within the industry and beyond recognize the value you bring.


The legal field is known to be extremely competitive. Lawyers are often smart, ambitious, and highly educated. That being said, what does it take to stand out and become a “Top Lawyer” in your specific field of law? In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Become A Top Lawyer In Your Specific Field of Law”, we are talking to top lawyers who share what it takes to excel and stand out in your industry.

As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Ouis.

Sarah Ouis is a business lawyer turned legal creative consultant. She developed her visibility on social media thanks to her ability to demystify legal concepts through visualization. She now wants to inspire and help other legal professionals thinking about their legal practice differently leveraging creativity and design.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. What is the “backstory” that brought you to this particular career path in Law? Did you want to be an attorney “when you grew up”?

Becoming a lawyer as for many has sit on my top 5 list of what I wanted to become (along with doctor, teacher etc.) Growing up, I then developed a strong interest in working with people and HR became a potential path. I still went to law school to keep my options open and discovered business law. I actually did not like law school but the idea of leveraging the law to do business was something that really interested me so I specialized in business law and never looked back.

Can you tell us a bit about the nature of your practice and what you focus on?

I have been working in-house, namely as part of the internal legal department of several organizations. This is not the most known route to become a lawyer by the general public but I could not have seen myself working in a law firm. This is what law school promotes and what series usually showcase but it is far from being the only route to become a successful lawyer. When you work in-house you look after the general legal affairs of the company and usually navigate through a variety of legal work, from commercial to corporate to even disputes that may arise. Over time I developed my expertise in commercial and data protection legislation in the healthcare and technology industries.

You are a successful attorney. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? What unique qualities do you have that others may not? Can you please share a story or example for each?

I think you have qualities that are commonly present across the industry to become successful and those that are probably more personal to me.

But if I was to name the 3-character traits that allowed me to succeed, they would be the following:

  • Practicality. I like to keep things simple and to the point, I am not looking for the perfect solution for my clients as this is not what business is about. Doing business is about acting quickly, getting things done and moving. I am aligning my way of working to my clients’ goals by keeping it simple and practical. For example, I summarize contracts through visuals and tables VS long winded emails that nobody is going to fully read anyway.
  • Creativity. I do usually not hesitate pushing the envelope, I try new ways of working and leverage my creativity in different situations to make things better for my clients. For example, my internal business teams were confused about which contract to use for which business scenario. Instead of just explaining things in an academic manner, I have designed an infographic comparing contracts to personal relationships (for example, the non-disclosure agreement, more commonly known as the NDA, could be compared to a first date. At the NDA stage, similarly to a first date, the parties are having one-to-one conversations that nobody else should know about as they don’t yet know if they want to take it to the next level) I also shared this infographic on my social media and it went viral in the legal and business community on LinkedIn with hundreds of thousands of views being reached.
  • Personality. I show my authentic self with clients and leverage my personality across everything I do. I am quite personable, have a lot of empathy and always try my best to ensure that my clients are happy.

Do you think you have had luck in your success? Can you explain what you mean?

I am a strong believer that you create your own luck in your career. I come from a working-class background, I am the eldest of an 8 children family, I am the first generation of lawyer in my family, a daughter of Algerian immigrants, a woman in a male dominated industry on top of everything else, I graduated in a far from being top tier university located in the Paris suburban area (what you would usually call in France ‘ghetto’). On top of this; I have developed my career in the UK since I could not find a job in France. As you can see, I was not born to shine or be successful in any shape or form. I owe my success mainly to my resilience over rejection, my ability to dare over fear or the feeling of not being good enough or worthy of success. With that being said of course, sometimes circumstances, people can play a part in someone’s life and I have been fortunate to also come across people who have given me a chance to develop my legal career and grow as a professional in general.

Do you think where you went to school has any bearing on your success? How important is it for a lawyer to go to a top-tier school?

I don’t think it did by its name or reputation given the fact that the law school I went to was not in the top tier universities in France. We however had practical classes which probably played a part in how I currently practice. If someone can go to a top tier university it is definitely great, if someone has the luxury of choice then this person should take it. But there are so many ways outside of law school to build a successful legal career. The cliché surrounding the legal education suggests the opposite. I like saying that the law is the same everywhere irrespective of the law school you went to and lawyers should always keep this in mind.

Based on the lessons you have learned from your experience, if you could go back in time and speak to your twenty-year-old self, what would you say? Would you do anything differently?

There is little I regret apart from perhaps stopping beating myself up for not feeling good enough. Imposter syndrome has come in the way of my career a lot so I’d probably told my younger self to be kinder to herself and accept the need to grow and learn to be successful. Instant success is not a thing.

This is not easy work. What is your primary motivation and drive behind the work that you do?

I see law as a tool, a means to achieve a purpose. Make the law work to achieve the desired outcomes is really what drives me.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I have launched my own legal creative consultancy business to practice law differently. I want the law engaging, accessible to the general public, fun and innovative and want to drive the change forward.

Where do you go from here? Where do you aim to be in the next chapter of your career?

Definitely become a reference of law made better through design and visualization.

Without sharing anything confidential, can you please share your most successful “war story”? Can you share the funniest?

My journey to find my first legal job after qualification as a lawyer. I had left France for a ‘legal internship’ in the UK that ended up being a scam. I still decided to remain in the UK and try developing my career there but I had to pay my bills and my first employment post qualification was in a coffee shop in the UK. I could also barely speak let alone understand English. On my first day in the coffee shop, a customer came at 7 AM to order a flat white to which I responded ‘did you say flat wine’?. When I feel down, I look back and remind myself of these challenging yet hilarious moments!

Ok, fantastic. Let’s now shift to discussing some advice for aspiring lawyers. Do you work remotely? Onsite? Or Hybrid? What do you think will be the future of how law offices operate? What do you prefer? Can you please explain what you mean?

I am a believer of trusting people to let them work in whatever way they feel comfortable with. As with law itself, nothing is rarely black and white. I think allowing flexibility to people means empowering them to do their job the way they think they would perform the best. I personally prefer the flexible hybrid model based on people’s choices

Law firms allowing this are more likely to retain their talents and would even have a competitive advantage over the ones offering a more traditional model.

How has the legal world changed since COVID? How do you think it might change in the near future? Can you explain what you mean?

COVID definitely accelerated the need for the industry to change the way legal services are being delivered. There is a greater emphasis and pressure to do things better, more efficiently which explains the rise of legal technology, the development of alternative legal service providers and other actors disrupting not only the profession but also the actual practice. I am hoping for a more diverse and user-friendly practice of law in the future.

We often hear about the importance of networking and getting referrals. Is this still true today? Has the nature of networking changed or has its importance changed? Can you explain what you mean?

I used to have a pretty bad conception of networking and I’d view it as a way to get to know people in order to get something in return which is far from the true nature of networking. I discovered its true definition through my content on social media. Networking is about adding value to others, engaging in conversations, contribute to somebody else’s project. Now with a still mainly remote and online world, networking through social media is something that has become even more important. In regards to referrals, lawyers are in the service business and I think referrals will always be an important source of leads. The only difference now is that such referrals can also come through social media through people consuming the lawyers’ content.

Based on your experience, how can attorneys effectively leverage social media to build their practice?

Lawyers can add a lot of value to their audience. They hold valuable information that they can share and demystify, the law still being something quite dry and complex to digest. They can leverage social media to educate and inform their audience about their rights, their obligations and this can go a long way to develop not only a visibility but an actual clientele if they do it right.

Excellent. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Become A Top Lawyer In Your Specific Field of Law?” Please share a story or an example for each.

Hard work. Growing a legal career Is not something that comes naturally, it takes a lot of practice and work to get there. I personally had to train myself, do a lot of research, document my findings, ask the right questions, repeat the same tasks over and over again and learn from my mistakes to grow as an in-house lawyer.

Resilience: this is a competitive market with a lot of good candidates and therefore a lot of rejections. I had to compromise, leave my family and friends in France and start all over again in the UK to grow an international career. During that time, I had numerous occasions to think of giving up and just return home instead of pushing for a success that was never guaranteed.

Creativity: using the law creatively, being in a mindset of action and iteration, trying new things, new tools to improve the way things are is paramount. This is what I do when trying to simplify the understanding of law through visualization for example

Empathy: have empathy and put the client at the core of your deliverables. I adapt the way I deliver legal advice to my client’s profile. A sales person and an executive will get two different things because they have different expectations and needs from their lawyer.

Keep the big picture in mind: being a good legal practitioner is not enough. Being able to become a thought leader, inspire, network, add value to others, mentor, drive the progress forward in the industry is key component for a long term success in your area of practice. This is what I’ve been doing for years on social media by creating content to establish my profile as a lawyer who’s able to visualize the law through design. Being a top lawyer is rarely only about yourself if nobody else within the industry and beyond recognize the value you bring.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

Gary Vee definitely he’s a true inspiration especially on my content creation journey!

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!

Thanks so much for having me!


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