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11th Nov 2021

2021 ACC National Conference Dovetail Summary

The team at Dovetail; Andrew Murdoch, Charlie Smirl, Sonia Cason and Charlotte McGrath had the pleasure of attending the 2021 virtual ACC In-House Legal National Conference on Monday 8th and Tuesday 9th of November 2021.

The team at Dovetail; Andrew Murdoch, Charlie Smirl, Sonia Cason and Charlotte McGrath had the pleasure of attending the 2021 virtual ACC In-House Legal National Conference on Monday 8th and Tuesday 9th of November 2021.

Here is our summary of the sessions held throughout the conference.

PLEASE NOTE: These conference sessions are all available on-demand to March 2022 on the ACC Website at this link:
ACC Nat Con Login

Day One of the National Conference, Monday

Leading Positive Change

Grace Tame, Australian of the Year, bravely discussed the horrors of her paedophiliac assaults, the disgraceful cultures that embolden perpetrators, and the systemic legal oppression of victims.

Hope, action, acceptance, taking one step at a time, communication – these cornerstones to Grace moving forward, finally resulted in changes to Tasmanian law.

She spoke of her struggles, past and on-going and the positive power of support she has received. Grace calls on everyone to understand, and believe in, the damage caused by coercive control, grooming, gas lighting, and other similar assault techniques.

She calls for consistent Federal and State legislation to be introduced, a national uniformed approach in language and penalties, educational resources, and closure of legal loopholes. Grace reminds us of the foundations of change: Collaboration, Conversation, Education and Legislation, and encourages each of us to use our voices for change.

If you have experienced abuse and need to speak to someone, support is available. Call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

A Lawyer’s Life in the “for purpose” sector. Stories from the front line (Round Table)

Justin Moses and Nick Galloway facilitated a discussion with a panel of In-house Counsel from Not For Profit organisations to discuss their experiences.

One of the overarching themes was everyone feels as though they are making a positive impact upon the community. Often legal and operational resources are stretched thin; however, they are always able to “make it work”. It was great to hear that the Not-for-Profit sector is a supportive community where individuals can lean on each other as sounding boards, as well as share resources, knowledge, and innovative ideas. These relationships have proven to be key in the success of the legal teams within these organisations.

Some panellists touched on how to get started and succeed within a Greenfields role in the “for purpose” sector. Key points included; ask lots of questions, understand the business risk tolerance and appetite and reporting culture, how incidents are dealt with, systems and processes, continuous improvement and learn from errors.

Evolving Role of In-House Counsel in the Boardroom

Dotti Schindlinger from Diligent chatted with Susan Forrester, board chair and company director, about the role of in-house counsel working with the board. The discussion covered key areas such as:

  1. Data Privacy and Cybersecurity
  2. Compliance and Regulations
  3. Continued COVID-19 Impact
  4. Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)

With a wealth of experience, both as an in-house lawyer and a company director, Susan provided her views on how in-house counsel can play a role to help shape strategy as well as ensuring compliance. Not just reports on historical compliance, but importantly updates and assessments on the state-of-play about what is coming up on the horizon. Legal as a function is more likely to be expected to step up and appreciate the broader commercial considerations for the business in addition to the legal issues. Tapping into the words of Bernard Fanning, “sail the steady ship right through the tempest”, be the one that executives want on deck with them when the seas are roughest.

Lore, Law & lawyers: Using your in-house skills and knowledge to strengthen Indigenous partnerships

Andrew Paloni and Bob Muir of Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) provided valuable insights on how AIMS is focusing on their Indigenous partnerships. A key pillar of building a relationship of trust is “free, prior and informed consent”. Traditional Owners have let AIMS know that they value:

  1. Protections for Indigenous knowledge
  2. Consent before doing things that impact Country
  3. Long and meaningful partnerships
  4. Respect

Importantly, it is not materially different from what occurs in commercial setting.  Also, the recognition and protection of Indigenous Knowledge (IK) can be addressed in contracts similar to IP. A key message was “You can do it. Not only can you do it, but you should do it” – strengthening indigenous partnerships is good for you and good for your business.

A Crash Course on Building a Scalable Legal Department

Evan Wong, CEO & Founder of Checkbox.ai, started the discussion on Building a Scalable Legal Department by identifying the scalability of: People, Processes and Technology. Then focusing on technology, he discussed the “core four” of the In-house Legal Tech Stack – Matter Management System, Document Management System, E-Billing, and Automation Platforms.

Automations which deliver a clear value to the business including: Intake & Triage, Document Workflow, Approval Workflow, and Self-Service Advice, change the way we work for the better.

To achieve this you also need to promote how the legal team will add strategic value to the company, by building a strong business case, framing it to demonstrate value to the business, and Evan offers strong and impactful examples.

Why you should have a law student clerk in your in-house team

Jessie Porteus, Head of Legal, Temple & Webster, hosted a round table discussion with counsel and law students from previous in-house clerkship program’s participating legal teams to share their experiences and benefits of the clerkships. The ACC’s Specialist Interest Group formed with core purpose with creating awareness of in-house careers and options amongst law students and law graduates. Since being formed they have taken on several projects including a pilot in-house clerkship program and are now partnering with ACC to continue with the program.

Why do firms have clerkships but not-inhouse? In-house is one of the fastest growing sectors. Not many law students know about it as an option, and it is about creating a clear career path into in-house careers.

Clerkships are an effective way to provide insight to students and help support the many demands of the in-house team. They support both sides, the in-house legal teams and the students. They shortlist students – it is designed to be flexible, low hassle and low cost.

Several students and in-house lawyers provided details on their experience.

  • COVID caused difficulties but they were overcome
  • In-house careers really were not discussed at all at university. Firms are the ones with the resources to go to career fairs etc – in-house teams find it difficult to do so.
  • It has been a positive experience
  • It has shown that lawyers do not need private practice experience to become a lawyer – and if it’s a structures program we can help achieve this.
  • This is a well-supported program – the students are shortlisted, it is flexible, part time/ full time, short term or long term
  • There’s a good guide and additional materials on the ACC website – https://www.acc.com/resource-library/acc-australia-house-lawyers-graduate-profile-handbook

Cyber-crime, privacy and permission, and open data initiatives

Greg Dickason, MD of LexisNexis Pacific, provided an overview of data risks for businesses, such as ransomware and data breaches whether from human, technical or cultural issues. Greatest risk is often through your people, so it is important to keep staff constantly trained – for example, “keep them on their toes with phishing emails”.

While your IT team may focus on technology, in-house lawyers have a huge role to play in relation to the people side, such as governance and testing, in addition to the legal compliance. Overall, it’s important to understand your data is highly valuable and so it can also pose a significant risk.

Meaningful measures to address racism

Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan not only discussed the new national framework for anti-racism and equality but called on all In-house Lawyers to ensure the businesses with whom they work have strong legal frameworks in their businesses, protecting people from racial discrimination.

Commissioner Tan mentioned “Racism is not an event but a structure, and a structure which needs to be destroyed at its roots, as racism at any level of society is not acceptable”.

In-house lawyers need to approach racism in a proactive way, implementing positive measures within the principles, policies, programs, and practices of an organisation. We need to create a culture of diversity, inclusion, and equality and tackle racism at a structural and systemic level”.

The whole organisation must take responsibility and be accountable for anti-racism, diversity & equality. However, as In-house counsels you are best placed to lead as you are a role model and leader, and in a position to both promote and champion internal diversity, establish principles and policies for an equal and diverse workplace, and be seen to do so. In-house lawyers can also support and promote the creation of cultural competence, that is, the will and actions to build an understanding between people – attitudes, skills, and knowledge.

Commissioner Tan challenges in-house lawyers to step up and assess where you and your organisation are at regarding anti-racism, equality and diversity, what you can change, and where you can lead your organisation.

What an amazing closing session for the day!


Day Two, Tuesday

Down the rabbit hole of ‘noble cause’ corruption

Megan Tittensor spoke about the Witness X/Gobbo case which she participated in as part of IBAC. Both the police and Gobbo were found guilty by the High Court. The police were reluctant to cooperate, they tried to wait them out past the six-month period of the investigation.

The reason for telling the story is to make us think if there could be a situation where our ethics are challenged by the environment we work in. It could be that you find yourself so far out that you are in an environment where you lose your moral compass. It could be we think we are morally right but acting in a corrupt way.

How to turn anxiety into your superpower

In her keynote address, Dr Jodie Lowinger outlined her Mind Strength Methodology, as well as a logical, and practical 10 step toolkit:

Step 1 – Notice the worry story
Step 2 – Take long, slow out breaths
Step 3 – Bring your mind back to the present moment through mindfulness (non-judgementally)
Step 4 – Acknowledge thoughts and feelings
Step 5 – Sit with uncertainty
Step 6 – Get clarity and alignment to purpose, values, strategic goals and actions
Step 7 – Move from outcome to effort
Step 8 – Practice assertive communication
Step 9 – Be your own best friend
Step 10 – Embrace the mind strength wellbeing framework

Jodie outlined, we as humans do not sit comfortably with uncertainty, and this uncertainty impacts performance, social and health. This uncertainty triggers our primitive survival instinct, our fight or flight. Our perceived threats play out as though they are real threats. Anxiety is the physiological reaction to perceived threats within our environment. Long term it can lead to burnout! It’s real!! Due to our depleted our serotonin reserves, it feels like you are “walking through sludge”.

“We all worry, and it’s because we care! It’s not weak to feel, it’s human to feel”

We need to smash the stigma and shame around anxiety, as it is something of which we all will experience in some form throughout our lives. These tips will aid us in turning anxiety into our superpower!

How a fictional paper company inspired punchy, practical and pun-filled legal and compliance training

Zoee Bradley, Senior Legal Counsel at Medtronic Australasia, provided an entertaining walk through of how compliance training can be made more engaging, more interactive and more effective for your business. It’s all about fun, with gamification, role-playing and rewards.  Characters in role play can make topics and examples less confronting. Zoee is a natural and, in addition to skits from The Office, Zoee easily calls on her love of pop culture, the Kardashians and Arnold Schwarzenegger movies in her own delivery of compliance training.  With plenty of songs and puns in the mix too, you can’t help but be drawn into Zoee’s compliance training gameshow!

Work Smarter, Live Better

Cyril Peupion from Work Smarter Live Better, began his presentation with a staggering statistic, “on average people interact with their mobile phone 2617 times per day”.

Cyril offered the statement; many people have never been taught to work. How do we manage the flow of activity that comes to you each day?

Cyril’s 3 Principles in order to work better;

1. One touch; one decision
● Don’t touch an email more than once, triage your inbox.

2. Prioritise by impact
● What impacts long term?

3. Create deep focus
● If you want to be a high performer, you need to create focus

Rethinking Futures

The panel discussed the different forms of working, alternate career paths, and emphasised that your career path is quite often not linear.

  • If a role works for you, then don’t let anyone dissuade you.
  • You don’t need to take the traditional route.
  • Don’t let yourself be categorised or put in a box by others.
  • Changing industries shouldn’t be scary, you have transferrable skills. They all have employees, customers, teams, compliance etc.
  • Time to drive change. Change is scary but can be beneficial. Change cannot always happen in the organisation you are in.
  • Think about other forms of employment such as contract roles. They can provide you with new work experiences and ability to develop a larger network.
  • Being in slump is not fun, however, by working through it, opportunities arise.

Better Diversity Conversations with Legal Suppliers

How to have better conversations between in-house lawyers and law firms to deliver outcome for diversity and inclusion.

Kate Price, Senior Legal Counsel at MessageMedia led a discussion with Bronwyn Woodgate, Chief of Staff to the Group General Counsel BHP and Madeleine Motion Responsible Business Manager Herbert Smith Freehills, on how in-house counsel can have better conversations around diversity as a requirement on suppliers (law firms, professional services firms, investment banks, other external advisors). They looked at how to ask external advisors to provide a diverse team during a panel engagement and during specific transactions, how to give feedback if they do not meet your expectations and what data points do you ask firms/external advisors to report on and what you do with that information.

Bronwyn Woodgate – BHP

  • BHP set out their position to the firms as a proactive step
  • They have a guide – “How we engage with law firms”  – this includes the principles of diversity and inclusion and highlights the befits for all parties and the industry
  • The guide was prepared pre COVID and the lawyers have it on their desk as a reference guide
  • BHP have a transparent two-way relationship with the firms about their expectations on including and diversity.
  • BHP recognise the importance of the relationships they have with their firms and they help each other on the inclusion and diversity journey.
  • It’s shining a light on the company’s values, how it ties to diversity, to make impactful change.
  • Raising awareness is key: where are on a journey, where do we want to go?

Madeleine Motion – Freehills 

  • They have internal inclusion and diversity professionals that help not just the firm but their clients on these issues.
  • Sometimes the behaviour of the in-house legal function and the firm’s behaviour doesn’t align with their stated principles – it can happen when we get really busy – a discussion can usually bring this back to the stated diversity and inclusion aims of the business. Requires humility on behalf of the law firm and a sophisticated and mature relationship.
  • Cultural competency and anti-racism workshops are helpful to create a culture within the companies to provide better instructions to the firms. Some firms can hold these for the in-house team. This helps instructions to be better aligned to both the in-house team and the firm’s diversity and inclusion.
  • In-house teams need to recognise the power dynamic between the in-house team and the law firm. This can make it complex and in-house teams need to be mindful of the power dynamic.
  • A client’s voice on this issue will be listened to and it’s important that clients communicate this to the firm. An increasing recognition within firms that this matters to clients, but it’s important for clients to state what their values are.

Measuring, Enhancing and Demonstrating the Value of Legal: KPIs for In-house legal teams

Andrew Mellett of Plexus spoke about why KPIs are important for the legal function, what they should measure and what tools can be used.

  • 85% of legal tasks go unsupported; 24% of internal clients feel they get value; 65% increase in GC turnover in the last three years
  • If you don’t have another metric to measure you by, they will measure you on cost
  • Companies want more for less from their legal function
  • How much value you provide needs to consider “Legal Drag” – how much did the legal function slow the business down and add cost
  • Highest value actions are the most difficult to prove
  • Performance metrics deliver many benefits – particularly to demonstrate value
  • Few legal teams effectively use KPIs, and there are numerous barriers to introducing KPIs
  • Need good tech to access data to show value
  • Why don’t legal teams introduce metrics more often:-

1. Lazy
2. Vanity
3. Provincialism
4. Narcissism
5. Pettiness
6. Inability
7. Aggression

Legal teams need a sophisticated tech tool to implement and measure metrics, and the metrics must be aligned to the business strategies. The tech needs to reduce barriers for the team to use it.

Power Play: Breaking through bias, barriers, and boys’ clubs

Julia Banks began her presentation by outlining her career path, and how it shaped who she is, including her time as a lawyer where she made best friends, had the best moments of her life, and met her husband. When she landed a new corporate counsel role, and was the youngest by far, and other colleagues had reservations due to her age. Julia spoke about stereotypes and how we are all often breaking through stereotypes, conscious or unconscious bias. For example; when a male is ambitious he is seen as a strong, go-getter with General Counsel potential. However, an ambitious woman is seen as difficult and outspoken.

You don’t have to be at the top of the tree to have personal power, and your title is almost irrelevant. Trust is one common thing that will help you break through. Trust your instinct, trust in yourself and your leader.

A few years ago, Julia found a lump that was a supposed cyst, but turned out to be cancer (after a 10 day wait). Key learnings from those 10 days:

  • Always appreciate the gift of time
  • Never let a job define or pigeonhole you
  • Take opportunities, do not always take the safe path. Take a break, deviate, take chances.
  • What gives you energy, what is the driver

Julia went on to speak about her transition to politics. She won an opposition seat which was held for over 20 years. She had profound respect for and aligned values with Malcolm Turnbull. After a lengthy corporate career, Julia found joining politics as stuck in time, “Mad Men meets House of Cards”. When Julia went to exit politics, the timing did not align for the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. He asked for 24 hours, in which time he used it against her. Media advisers then fed the press with an untrue narrative around Julia’s supposed mental health issues. There was a large power disparity, and this false narrative was used as an attempt to silence. In any other relationship you go in with high trust until someone abuses that, in politics it is the opposite.

Mentors are great but you really need a champion. A person that will help you carve out the way. Julia found the strength and wherewithal to push on, and all because she knew it was “the right thing to do” and with that comes authenticity, especially when advocating, or doing things for others. Trust your instincts in any situation where you feel you are being gas lighted or bullied.


Congratulations to all nominees and award winners, including Michael Guilday, General Counsel, Sydney Fish Market for winning inaugural Sole Legal Officer of the Year, sponsored by Dovetail!

Winning Gift Card

Congratulations to Madelaine Kloucek, General Counsel, AICD for winning the $500 Apple gift card from our Dovetail prize draw!

Thank you

Thanks to all the attendees who made the conference such a success, and to the ACC Team and Committee for putting on such an informative and well organised virtual event!

Dovetail also attended  the following ACC events through 2021, check out our comprehensive recaps: