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16th Nov 2023

ACC In-House Counsel National Conference – Summary 2023

A compilation of the key messages we heard from over the ACC In-House Counsel National Conference in Canberra.

The team at Dovetail: Andrew MurdochCharlie Smirl and Andrew Bursil had the pleasure of sponsoring, exhibiting and speaking at the ACC In-House Counsel National Conference in Canberra from the 29th to the 31st of October.

Below is a compilation of the key messages we heard from some of the sessions at the event.

Canberra - Nat Con 2023

Table of Contents

Monday 30th Oct

Unleashing Innovation: Navigating Challenges and Cultivating Change

Presented by: Gus Balbontin
Always energetic and always entertaining, Gus challenged us all to cultivate change and unleash innovation.

Key takeaways:
  • You don’t need more resources, just more resourcefulness!
  • Control your adaptability to change right now, rather than worrying about trying to predict the future.
  • If you do the same thing over and over again, you starve your brain of novelty and change can freak you out.
  • Innovation is all about fixing problems, start with “Simple / Small / Now” problems that can work towards “Complex / Big / Later” problems.
  • Bring novelty into your life every week, even if just for a few hours. “If you don’t play, you don’t learn. Let go!”

How data privacy and cybersecurity intersect for in-house counsel

Presented by: FTI Consulting – Tim De SousaWouter VeugelenOlga Ganopolsky and moderated by Irene Kuo

Every business involves data, so it’s critical for in-house lawyers to be aware of the issues.

Key takeaways:
  • Be part of your business’ pre-incident preparation, rather than just being called in to deal with post-incident investigation.
  • It’s important to put the interests of the individuals impacted by the data or cybersecurity incident first. Don’t jump to “who should be sued, sacked or sanctioned…”
  • Privacy reform: be proactive, educate your team and business and embrace a multi-disciplinary approach.
  • Adopt a principles-based approach to responsible data uses: “aim high, go high and stay high”.
  • Consider what the failure state may look like in relation to AI and it’s use by your business. Pre-plan ways to mitigate the risk of that failure state.

Business Love Languages: Enhancing Communication and Building Stronger Relationships

Presented by: Kate Sherburn & Elisabeth Flett

Human connection at work is vital. Kate and Elisabeth Key took us through the “five love languages” developed by Gary Chapman in 1992 from a personal relationship context:

        1. Acts of service
        2. Receiving gifts
        3. Quality time
        4. Words of affirmation
        5. Physical touch

We generally show appreciation in the way we like receiving it, but the recipient may have a different “love language” and appreciation needs to be tailored to the recipient. This theory is equally applicable in a business environment (except for physical touch).

Different examples in a workplace setting are:

1. Acts of service – help a colleague with tasks or work they are struggling to get through.
2. Receiving gifts – payment of bonuses, small token gifts, or larger gifts as rewards
3. Quality time – one-on-one time, setting up a mentorship, team building exercises
4. Words of affirmation – praise and positive feedback, perhaps publicly at a meeting or in a newsletter
5. Physical touch – this is less relevant in the workplace as the context of a professional environment means this is unlikely to ever be appropriate or likely to be received as positive by the recipient.

Some ideas on how to implement include:
    • All employees complete a “Working with me” document:
        1. How you communicate
        2. Your expectations
        3. Your quirks
        4. How you like feedback
        5. What to come to you for
    • Check-in on how feedback is being received and also pay attention to the reaction to different forms of affirmation.

Making the Case for Social Change . . . At work

Presented by: Lori MiddlehurstCourtenay ZajicekKiri-Ana Libbesson & Marilyn Mather

Key takeaways:
  • The ability of the business to be an agent for social change will depend upon the company and its structure.
  • Private companies with a large consumer presence may have greater flexibility and incentive to engage in social change, ie Nandos.
  • A larger, highly regulated, listed organisation like a superannuation fund may have less scope, ie AusSuper
  • The Pfizer 5-Step Model for Social Change provides a good blueprint on how to enact social change.
  • Develop criteria to determine if you wish to engage in an issue.

For example:

      1. Does it align with your values and is it something your stakeholders feel strongly about – and measure this through surveys etc. Nandos – “Do we have a chicken in this fight?”
      2. Do you have a credible, authentic voice on the topic
      3. Timing – there is a window of opportunity -are you within it
      4. How do you do it – partnerships etc
        •  Don’t take a stand if you don’t have a plan.
        •  Actions speak louder than words
      5. Risks/Resourcing
      6. Sometimes, there will be splashback – be prepared for it and deal with it.

Putting It On The Line – When Should an In-house Counsel Become a Whistle-blower? 

Presented by: Phil Ware

Using examples from Australia and US, Phil Ware provided an insightful walk-through of different situations where In-House Counsel may find themselves in a whistleblower situation.

Key takeaways:
  • The decision on whether or not to become a whistleblower could happen to in-house lawyers too – so in-house lawyers need to ask themselves “What if it was me?”
  • Phil also touched on details such as whistleblowers “must have clean hands” and the importance of Whistleblower protections, as opposed to attempts at “Pretaliation clauses” in employment contracts and confidentiality agreements
  • US has a cash-for-tip program, a bounty model, where the whistleblower may receive 10% – 30% of the fine or settlement paid by the company to the regulator. For example, Ericsson’s US$1.1 billion settlement with SEC resulted in the whistleblower receiving US$279 million…

Mastering the Art of End-of-Year Legal Department Reporting + A Look Ahead at the Top Legal Risks Shaping 2024 

Presented by: Thomson Reuters – Tim Perry, Tyrilly CsillagKate Merrifield & Louise Sinclair

Key takeaways:
  • End of year report should include:
      1. Summary of GC responsibilities
      2. Core legal responsibilities
      3. Supplemental responsibilities
      4. Upcoming department and organisational opportunities and challenges
      5. Success metrics for both core and supplemental responsibilities (this is crucial).
  • Success metric:
        1. Legal department financial performance
        2. Performance against published industry standards
        3. Results of legal department stakeholder satisfaction survey (conducted at least annually)
        4. Other measurements including:
          •  Number and value of contracts processed
          •  Reduction in average cycle time for contract processing and resulting value of accelerated revenue for the organisation
          •  Value of litigation victories
          •  Savings against funds reserved for litigation losses
        5. Outcomes of other legal department initiatives (e.g. tech enhancement, e-billing)

Legal Evolution: Embracing Next Gen Lawyers – Millenials, Zillenials and Zoomers 

Presented by: Stacey Rose-Ackroyd, Rucha Ranade and Sasha Ognjanova

In a room full of lawyers from a wide range of generations, Stacey, Rucha and Sasha led an engaging panel discussion about the priorities for Next Gen Lawyers.

Key themes:
  • Roles:
      1. Leverage your tech ability, your tech-savvy strength is a benefit, willingness to adopt new tech and play a role in innovation.
      2. Seeking a job to be meaningful, want to make a difference, ability to bring authentic self.
      3. Majority want to be involved in decision-making from the start, keen to have a seat at the table, the opportunity to build and develop connections with senior managers – one way to achieve this is with the opportunity to “shadow”, even if joining a meeting as an observer.
  • Managers:
      1. Having a strong and positive manager is important.
      2. Finding balance where you have the freedom to do things by yourself while also having the safety of being able to rely on your manager for guidance when needed.
      3. Accessibility is important, it’s good to have an “open door policy” (but remember we’re seeking a mentor, not a therapist…)
      4. Psychological safety within the workplace – ability to suggest new ideas, make mistakes and learn from mistakes in order to develop.
  • Intergenerational:
      1. Two-way relationship between different generations, to bridge gap and build rapport – effort from both sides is required
      2. Snacks are always a good idea to bring people of every generation together. So, more snacks…

From Bland to Brand – Communicating your brand as In-House Counsel 

Presented by: Theo Kapodistrias and Edwina Stevenson

Key takeaways:
      • It’s important and develop and communicate your brand. A well-crafted personal brand can give you greater influence externally and internally.
      • The first step is to do a personal brand audit. Google yourself and have a look at your LinkedIn and others.
      • Think about the purpose of your social brand.
      • Look at case studies of branding fails – eg Michael Clarke; Ellen and marketing success.
      • 4 ways to improve your social brand – SALT – Social Media; Awards; Live Talks; Third Party Endorsement.
      • Be authentic and humble.

Mindset Reset 

Presented by: Chelsea Pottenger

Chelsea shared her own lifechanging story to deliver an engaging session on mindfulness and well-being.

Key takeaways:
      • High performers often lack boundaries and risk stress and burnout. How do you reduce stress? Pro tip: Double inhale, with a single slow exhale. You can use this anywhere and anytime (and it’s likely you’re already doing it in your sleep).
      • Devise your personal action plan:
          1. prioritise your sleep (aim for 8 hours),
          2. nourish your body (healthy eating and healthy gut),
          3. move your body,
          4. self-care,
          5. connect with friends and family.
      • Moderate your triggers: limit alcohol and coffee, put away social media and stop watching negative news.
      • “The 3 Day Rule”, schedule more regular breaks such as a 3-day weekend to get your personal action plan on track and maintained every 6 to 8 weeks (or as frequently as you can…)

Tuesday 31st Oct

Empowering Change – The Future Post Australian Indigenous Voice Referendum

Presented by: Stan Grant

In a moving keynote session, Stan delivered a heartfelt and powerful insight into his life and the life of his family and ancestors. Key themes included:

Key takeaways:
      • The atrocities committed against the indigenous were committed in recent history – “only a touch away”.
      • There are two Australias – Indigenous and non-Indigenous.
      • Law has been used to extinguish Indigenous people and culture.
      • Those who tried to use the law to assist were often sidelined and dismissed.
      • There can be poetry in law – a telling of the truth – eg Mabo.

A practical roadmap for generative AI: how it works, setting up your governance processes, and legal office use cases – learnings from The University of Sydney

Presented by: Olivia PerksDeborah Hook & Kristen Migliorini

Olivia, Deborah and Kristen provided a candid overview on USYD’s pro-innovation approach to generative AI, with guidelines as a practical way to support the safe and ethical use of AI. Uses cases included public ChatGPT, private ChatGPT and other tools to link generative AI to your enterprise systems.

Key themes:
      • Follow the data everywhere – “Data used to be the new oil, but now it’s the new asbestos…”
      • Risks need to be considered, especially with traumatised or distressed data
      • Look to your existing software vendors and check they already have generative AI in their own product roadmap
      • Recommended reading: Solomon, L., & Davis, N., (2023) The State of AI Governance in Australia, Human Technology Institute, The University of Technology Sydney [See Here]

Finding your quantum lawyer within cosmological insights to drive high performance for in-house lawyers

Presented by: Luke Barrett – UniSuper

Luke examined the role of the In-House Legal Function using physics as a metaphor and a tool to gain a better understanding of the in-house function and how to improve its performance.

Key takeaways:
      • Every Legal Team operates in a unique environment with different pressures.
      • There is no one-size-fits-all solution or method of working for in-house legal teams
      • A key to working in the business is understanding the environment and designing a function that works best within it.
      • There are multiple ways to service the business: outsource, in-source, triage. Not better or worse – different.
      • Many legal issues are not black or white. Empower the Legal Team to accept probabilities and uncertainty – there is no such thing as 100% certain.
      • You can’t have certainty and velocity (responsiveness) – it’s a matter of striking a balance between the two and always contextual.
      • “Uncertainty is uncomfortable, but certainty is an absurd one.” Voltaire

Contract, contract, on the wall, are your contracts fair at all? How to navigate the new normal of unfair contract terms

Presented by: Verity White – Checklist Legal,  and joined in a panel by Kate Sherburn – Who Gives a Crap, and Roderick Smith – Novartis

Verity provided a clear overview of the new provisions applying to unfair contract terms (ss.23-28 Australian Consumer Law) and was joined on the panel by Kate and Roderick to discuss real life examples of the benefits from having clear contracts.

Key takeaways:
      • Unfair contract terms: shift from voidable to illegal and penalties applying
      • Contract may be “unfair” if:
          1. there is a significant imbalance
          2. it is not a reasonably necessary term to protect the legitimate interests of a party
          3. it causes detriment to the other party
      • Transparency is also important. Make sure terms are easy to find and easy to read.
      • Red flags for potentially unfair contract terms include unilateral / one way rights, one sided limits and penalties
      • While you’re revising your own standard contracts, think about whether the contract is consistent with your brand and whether there is a better way to structure your contract, eg chunking it into sections with relevant fact sheets. Don’t be afraid to use icons – your company will likely already have plenty of on-brand icons available for you to easily use.
      • Benefit and impact of having fair and clear contract terms include increased engagement with stakeholders and counterparties, more efficient contract process and reduced queries throughout the contract lifecycle
      • “If it’s hard to read, it’s hard to do!”

Culture and Conduct Risks

Presented by: Amy Salapak

Amy provided a dive into: What is culture?

Verity provided a clear overview of the new provisions applying to unfair contract terms (ss.23-28 Australian Consumer Law) and was joined on the panel by Kate and Roderick to discuss real life examples of the benefits from having clear contracts.

Key takeaways:
      • “It’s the way we do things around here…”
      •  Culture can be an asset and a liability.
      • Develops over time and is complex. It should be examined regularly.
      • It’s everyone’s responsibility – but particularly those at the top.
      • Relies on governance and ethical practices.
      • Look to see what the motivators are for success/failure within the organisation.
      • The most common reasons for unethical behaviour are greed and money.
      • Organisational culture is increasingly being looked at by regulators when investigating breaches. Culture matters!

Innovation in Communication

Presented by: Lisa Keeling & Lani Bajracharya

Key takeaways:
      • In presenting legal advice you need to consider your audience.
      • Legal practitioners rely on the written word, but sometimes that may not get the message across to the intended audience.
      • Consider use of alternate methods of presenting information such as:
            • Venn diagrams
            • Flow charts
            • Decision trees
            • Slide decks
            • Heat maps
            • Emojis etc
      • Need to carefully consider ambiguity in alternatives used and ensure “fit for purpose”. A thumbs-up emoji may not be appropriate for a legal document review but can be for a confirmation of a meeting request.

SLO Roundtable | Sole Legal Avengers – Assembling your Stakeholder Team for Excellence

Presented by: Faten Awad & Paul Cenoz

Faten and Paul hosted an open and free-ranging discussion for Sole Legal Officers. Some useful tips included:

Key takeaways:
      • A good way you can help yourself is to seek feedback and take it constructively. This can be done via an informal debrief session with key stakeholders that touches on what went well, what could be improved for next times etc… (as Theo calls it, the “I like…, I wish… and what if…” discussion you can have with your business).
      • Be aware of internal allies such as other stakeholders within the business as well as external allies / resources, such as tech tools and external service providers.
      • Always keep in mind the success metrics of your audience. If you can speak to what is important to them and their success metrics, then alignment is going to be easier to achieve.

Beating Burnout: What can we do to keep our careers and health on track while keeping pace with innovation?

Presented by: Caterina CavallaroCatriona McGregor, Freya Smith & Vicki Clarkson

Key takeaways: 
      • Good and regular sleep is essential for physical and mental health.
      • A physical exercise routine can help improve physical and mental health.
      • Try to establish processes and procedures to reduce the workload.
      • Be present wherever you are.
      • Practice self-care.
      • Plan your day the night before.
      • Practice gratitude and maintain a sense of purpose.
      • Look for signs of burnout, not only in yourself but also in those around you:
          1. Not using a camera on video calls;
          2. Micro-indicators – e.g., tone of voice;
          3. Being disengaged;
          4. Feedback from others;
          5. Get to know your team so you can detect subtle changes in their behaviour.
          6. Be aware of the team’s and individual’s workload.
      • Gender plays a role – most housework still falls to women, an additional mental and physical burden that contributes to overload and burnout.

Life Beyond the Comfort Zone

Presented by: Samantha Gash

Key takeaways: 
      • Samantha (a 2 x Austalian survivor contestant) spoke of her life journey from being the last chosen in the school yard pick, to completing ultra marathons
      • She found her personal mental toughness when she pushed herself out of her comfort zone
      • She also covered how she dealt with failure and made it a personal goal to do succeed at something that was bigger than what she had previously failed at
      • She also told of a very emotional story of being physically assaulted during one of her ultra marathons that forced her to consider retiring from the event. She did not want to let a negative event impact her life story that she wanted to write – she returned to the race and successfully completed it

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