Home / Industry insights / Summary of General Counsel Summit 2021

22nd Oct 2021

Summary of General Counsel Summit 2021

The Dovetail Team: Andrew Murdoch, Charlie Smirl and Charlotte McGrath were pleased to attend the General Counsel Summit on Tuesday the 19th of October 2021. Here is a summary of some key messages from the day.

The Dovetail Team: Andrew Murdoch, Charlie Smirl and Charlotte McGrath were pleased to attend the General Counsel Summit on Tuesday the 19th of October 2021. Here is a summary of some key messages from the day.

The Legal Profession and the Future of Work

Graeme Watson – Corrs Chambers Westgarth

  • Complexity and outdated nature of industrial relations regulatory regime is increasing the cost of labour and leading to the acceleration in the replacement of people with technology.
  • It’s a minefield, so use specialists
  • Fascinating example of ‘Otzi’, the glacial mummy from 5300 years ago – iceman.it/en/the-iceman

Riding the Wave of Regulatory Reform: How to Navigate & Adapt to Increased Regulator Activity

  • Serryn O’Regan – Evolve College
  • Felicity Healy – Corrs Chambers Westgarth
  • Belinda Speirs – Suncorp Group

Key tips:

  • Be proactive and be aware of trends, rather than reactive when dealing with regulatory change. It’s best to get ahead of upcoming changes, to extent you can.
  • Create a symbiotic relationship with the regulator before any issues arise
  • ESG is now a “ticket to play” not just a “nice to have”. It’s not just about E – environment but also be mindful of the “S” Social and “G” Governance
  • Take a ‘competitive compliance’ view rather than just a tick-box approach. When successfully implemented, compliance can form part of your business’ competitive advantage.  No breaches mean no remediation costs so company resources can be better focused towards further growth and positive developments for the organisation.
  • Have a broad plan for regulatory change, communicate with stakeholders and ensure you have the capability.
  • Be part of creating a culture of quality, not just for the legal function but across the whole organisation.

Digital Transformation

Jerry Levine, Chief Evangelist and General Counsel – ContractPodAI

Key tips:

Plan what you’re seeking to achieve by identifying critical business needs.  This applies whether you’re:

  1. Starting out for Operational reasons initially, such as contract repository, contract generation or workflows
  2. Progressing through for Analytical purposes, such as contract searchability, reporting and data analytics; or
  3. Lifting to Strategic decision making, such as business impact and actionable insights drawn from contract database.

Navigating The Changing Landscape of Privacy

  • Matthew McMillan, Partner – McCullough Robertson
  • Olga Ganopolsky, General Counsel, Privacy and Data – Macquarie Group

Key tips:

  • Know your business and your customer base
  • Privacy impacts all areas of the organisation – it’s not just an IT issue, particularly as penalties for breaches become harsher.
  • Business Resilience and Privacy go hand in hand
  • Businesses are all different and there’s a need to assess each and their requirements
  • One of the biggest challenges for legal functions is a lack of clarity about how data is used, disclosed and managed.
  • Management of privacy during a pandemic can present additional challenges. Obligations to ensure safe workplace needs to be managed in balance with privacy obligations, for example workplace safety vs collection of personal health information

Legal Operations Panel Session: Re-Imagining Your Legal Team with Legal Ops in Mind

  • Matthew Duncan, Legal Operations Director – QIC
  • Anna Golovsky, Executive Manager, Legal & Company Secretariat Operations – IAG
  • Katrina Gowans, National Legal Operations Lead – Origin

The role of a Legal Ops professional:

  • Help the legal team manage change
  • In-house teams may be too busy ‘doing’ to work out a better way of ‘doing’
  • Build pathways within the legal team and to other functions across the organisation
  • Lift the operational efficiency of the legal department and deliver better outcomes for the business
  • Identify pain points together with the legal team and the business
  • Implement improvements to achieve gains, whether via people, process or tech

Take the legal team and the business on the journey with you

  • Make sure you have the buy-in from key stakeholders, particularly the GC
  • Legal Ops may be seen as “toe cutters” so may need to put the legal team at ease

The General Counsel’s Role in Advancing Your Organisations ESG Initiatives

  • Lyndall Stoyles, Group General Counsel & Group Executive, Sustainability, External Affairs and Legal – Telstra

Key points – ESG strategy should evolve as the organisation evolves

  1. Develop the ESG strategy
  2. Set clear targets to deliver on ESG objectives
  3. Plan needs to be fully funded year-on-year to be able to deliver on target objectives
  4. Track and monitor the delivery of the ESG plan. Ensure decisions being made are taking ESG plan into consideration
  5. Continuously challenge the business to ensure ESG initiatives are being advanced

Roundtable 1: New World Order: Managing Corporate Risk & Reputation as a Legal Leader

  • Charles Cho, General Counsel – NSW Treasury
  • George Papanikitas, General Counsel and Company Secretary – Kimberly-Clark Australia
  • Rebecca Waddell, Senior Legal Counsel – TikTok Australia and New Zealand
  • David Steirn, Director – Enterprise Investigations
  • All organisations face differing risks at varying levels
  • General Counsel’s role continues to expand more into managing risk and reputation Corporate actions must be carefully considered, planned and managed. If they are not managed correctly a company’s reputation, financial position and brand can be damaged
  • Often when the management or response to these risks is poor, then it is highlighted in the media more than the incident itself
  • Risks can be planned or unplanned. The more planning your team has accomplished, the better placed your organisation will be at handling risk when they arise.
  • If the legal function is not at the centre of handling these risks, they should be.

Roundtable 2: Engaging with Key Stakeholders & Developing A Business Minded Approach to Conflict Resolution

  • Leila Golchin, General Counsel & Senior Legal Director APAC – PepsiCo
  • Cassandra Tadros, Head of Legal – Procter & Gamble Australia & New Zealand
  • Nicholas Sedgwick, General Counsel, Legal & Contracts – Thales Australia

Key tips:

  • Be present and have communication with the organisation so you have better visibility of the key issues for the business, aka the Big Rocks…
  • In-house lawyers may wear different hats in the business, but ultimately the role as ‘legal guardians’ within the business remains.
  • Need to understand whether the risk & reward matrix makes sense for the business.
  • Essential for the legal team to understand how it wants to be perceived by the business, how does it want to be seen: customer-focused, solutions not roadblocks, wholistic view for the business not just legal perspective, high performing, engaging

Roundtable 3: Extracting True Value from External Partners

  • Tom Balmer, Director, Strategic Accounts – TransPerfect
  • Michelle Thomsen, Group Executive, General Counsel – QIC
  • William Daymond, Head of Legal & Compliance – Galderma
  • Two different sized legal functions – they source and engage with their external partners in different ways
  • There are benefits to establishing legal panels but it’s also important to shop around – a bit like what you should do with your energy or insurance provider…
  • It’s important to strike a balance between cost and the depth of relationship. It can be extremely useful at times for firms to have longevity of dealing with the business as they will have greater corporate knowledge
  • In addition to cost, aspects like depth of understanding, alignment with values, quality of access and ESG processes can all have an impact on the choice of firm. Firms should spend more time addressing these issues when pitching for work. If they matter to the company, then they should matter to the firm.
  • Much has to do with trust – if there’s trust the relationship can function more smoothly