How did you come to be the GC in your present role and what advice can you offer to aspiring in-house lawyers/GC?
My initial move from private practise to an in-house role occurred after I was ‘poached’ from my partnership by a client. I joined Dimension Data as its first in-house lawyer 15 years ago. For lawyers who would like to make the transition from private practice to an in-house role I would recommend doing some study that relates to business management. Giving sound legal advice is not enough; all in-house lawyers need to be able to put the legal advice in context.
The GC role is diverse and multi-faceted. In light of the James Hardie case, where/how does your role fit in with the business?
These days GCs need to have a very clear view of where they sit in the operations of a company. I do not endorse the custom of GCs also being company secretary. I think a wise GC remains at all times a legal adviser to the company and avoids becoming either a quasi-director or an operational manager outside the legal function. This is not just to avoid being found to be an ‘officer’ of the corporation, but to remain as an adviser to those who are.
In your opinion, what do you consider to be the main challenges you face in your particular industry sector in the year ahead?
In the ITC industry we are constantly challenged by the fact that new developments present new legal challenges. The newer challenges come from cloud services, data protection and data sovereignty. The notion of “big data” can mean challenging legal work. Our clients are sometimes struggling with the issues too. Privacy of data is becoming a bigger issue than it was a few years ago with clients being subjected to new laws and the need to make their new systems compliant. The blurring of the separation between work and home with the use of smart phones and tablets, and use of personal devices creates some interesting legal issues for management.
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