Andrew Murdoch and Charlie Smirl were pleased to represent Dovetail Legal Solutions at the ACC VIC In-House Counsel Day in Melbourne on 4th March 2020. Thanks to everyone involved. If you couldn’t make it, here’s a brief summary of key themes from the various sessions:
Future proofing you career
Jason Clarke, Founder of Minds at Work, kicked off the day with a challenge for us to face the future of change and take on the opportunities ahead with confidence. In short, we all need to get comfortable with change – remember: “It’s only kinky the first time…”
People don’t hate change, instead most actually can’t wait for the next new thing and we’re always getting quicker and quicker at adopting new things.
A great example of quickly making a successful transition from A to B was the National Corvette Museum sinkhole in Kentucky – which resulted in huge increase in visitors and revenue for the museum. So always be willing to seek opportunities in disruption.
Change is ever present and it can happen quickly. Often the prize is to make things better – but you need to make things different to reach the prize.
Usually two key issues blocking successful change:
- Lack of clarity – no one knows what is going on…
- Lack of agility – “I see no reason to change” / “but this is how we’ve always done it” / “You’re new around here aren’t you pet..”
Interplay between Purpose, Reality and Possibility.
- Purpose = the fundamental motivation for everything you do
- Reality = same old demands and limitations
- Possibility = new ways of thinking and working
Recognise different people bring different skills and there’s a place for all types of people in innovation. People to Imagine – Develop – Evaluate – Act. “Every psychological disorder is its own job description!”
Mind Matters – how to ensure you and your team care for your most important collateral
Robyn Kidd from Law in Order led a panel including Michael O’Hanlon from Beyond Blue, Kirsty Harvison from Quest Apartment Hotels and Pete Garrow from Telstra discussing issues mental health within in-house legal teams. Importantly, Mental health is everyone’s responsibility: Yours, your team’s, your manager’s and your company’s…
Mental health is a spectrum and we all shift up and down the spectrum.
Culture of an organisation is important, and it is the organisation’s responsibility to ensure it is a safe mental space. Develop a psychologically safe workplace where everyone is encouraged to speak out. Be open enough to share experiences and talk with each other.
“Stress makes you stupid, selfish and sick” – making poor decisions, less able to consider others around you and it’s not great for your health and wellbeing.
You don’t need any training to help others out simply asking if they’re okay can make a difference. Having a psychologically safe workplace means freedom to talk about issues comfortable with the team or one-on-one as an individual. A good option for one-on-one meetings is to hold walking meetings outside – go for a “walk and talk” with a team member.
There are things we can do to assist our mental health like meditation, eating well and exercise. Remember you don’t meditate to get good at meditation, you meditate to become good at life!
Wherever possible, try and remove frustrating processes and improve the small things.
CLO Club Roundtable: Advocating for policy change in an evolving regulatory environment
Lior Harel of Cronos Australia, an Australian medicinal marijuana company, opened a discussion regarding change in the regulatory environment and barrister Catherine Dermody provided insights from the Bar and her perspective from examples in energy regulation.
Make friends with the regulator – “Get in early, get in often and get up close”. Get to know them and how they work.
You do need to be proactive – “take the pen and do the drafting to help where you can”. Be ready and willing to use real examples and provide demonstrations to assist the regulators understand the industry from your level.
Contribute to industry groups as an option to proactively generate codes of conduct or similar industry guides that may address concerns without the need for further regulation. Lobbying is another method employed to influence policy.
Seek to build relationships with key regulators at a strategic level rather than simply at the liaison level.
Charging ahead of the regulators can be a risky strategy, unless you find yourself in an unregulated industry…
New to In-House Roundtable: Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk: How to be an effective contributor to commercial conversations
Bec Taube of RMIT University encouraged attendees at the roundtable to have a think about their own personal mission statement.
A free-flowing discussion across a range of tips for new in-house lawyers contributing to their businesses, including:
- The role of the in-house lawyer is to protect the business, but also to enable the business.
- Be personable and build trust.
- Speak directly with internal stakeholders wherever possible as communication is key.
- Be aware that email may be misinterpreted…
- Aim to reduce friction for the business. Use plain English and short emails which are to the point for the business. Learn your businesses own language and acronyms.
- “Be a leader first and a lawyer second”
Sole Legal Officer Roundtable: Juggling an Overwhelming Workload when you’re the Only Legal Officer
Tri Nguyen of IncoLink and Cil van Der Merwe of Plexus led a discussion on juggling workload for sole legal officers or small in-house teams.
A key take away if for in-house lawyers considering using technology to ease workload:
- Explore what technology is already available within your business before going external.
- Look for a solution that is not legal-centric – instead consider a platform that the wider business can also use.
- If going with an external provider, make sure all training is included in the price and also consider any onboarding that may be required for the wider business.
Managing your organisations reputation in a digital age
Feyi Akindoyeni of Newgate and Prash Naik of Reviewed and Cleared joined barristers Fiona Forsyth and Haaron Hassam on a discussion about navigating challenges of managing your brand and reputation in involving online environment.
- If you have a crisis involve your board as soon as possible
- You need to have a prepared strategy and crisis management training already in place
- Choose your battles. Stop, have a plan, clear roles and responsibilities
- Don’t panic.
- Crisis Communications: who, what, when, where, how.
- Reach for a crisis management professional before you even think you need them.
In-House Counsel as Guardian of Corporate Social Responsibility
Hailey Cavill-Jaspers of Cavill+Co provided a compelling case for moving beyond compliance and embracing social good – she calls it do-good-ology – the science of altruism and talking the walk
- Lawyers can make a positive difference.
- If you do it correctly, CSR can build trust and trust is key for developing the relationships both internally and externally.
- You can impact on the bottom line it can be used to increase and influence buying habits.
- People want to be involved with a company that has purpose and CSR can demonstrate that purpose.
- The CSO should be wholistic
- When getting buy-in internally, do an info graphic to demonstrate your case
- Compliance is not enough – policies need to go further
- Role of the lawyer in all of this is not only to pull together the agreements and make it happen but additionally lawyers have a voice within the organisation and access to the decisionmakers to influence the organisation to implement a CSR
Professor Julian Webb from University of Melbourne, Nick Galloway of PPG Industries and Mary O’Leary of Orica led an engaging discussion on paramount duties.
Classical view of paramount duties:
- A general duty of disclosure owed to the court
- A general duty not to abuse the court’s process
- A general duty not to corrupt the administration of justice
- A general duty to conduct cases efficiently and expeditiously
But what do paramount duties really mean to a commercial in-house lawyer?
An interesting hypothetical scenario was used as a basis for the discussion involving the whole room.
In essence, be a responsible lawyer, be truthful; and act with integrity.
Also be aware of the discretion to disobey…
- Trust your moral compass, but beware of how corporate culture can influence your compass
- Be willing to challenge yourself at all times
An ethical culture is so important and key questions to ask are:
- Is this lawful?
- Is this right?
Overall, paramount duties are “important, but increasingly subjective”.