How did you come to be the GC in your present role and what advice can you offer to aspiring in-house lawyers / general counsel?
Prior to taking up the role as general counsel and company secretary of State Trustees, I was a partner of King & Wood Mallesons. I was attracted to a general counsel role due to the breadth of issues with which in-house lawyers deal, their ability to partner with the business on issues that one would never encounter in private practice and their ability to see issues through to implementation.
In private practice, there is a tendency to specialise and be called upon as a specialist in a particular field. As general counsel, however, I am across all strategic matters in which the organisation is involved with, ranging from a dispute with a major supplier to expressing a view on policy relating to an area of the law to dealing with a regulator. In-house lawyers are called upon to solve problems or help identify risks and put in place solutions to mitigate those risks. They often are called upon at short notice to provide not just legal advice but practical guidance as well.
For people who wish to work in-house, I would highly recommend doing a secondment. If you are thinking of going in-house, you need to find an organisation where you will find the work interesting with a culture that suits you.
The role of the general counsel is diverse and multi-faceted. In light of the James Hardie case, where/how does your GC role fit in with the business?
One of the growing trends is for the legal team to partner very closely with the business. This enables the legal team to know developments which are coming up, identify risks and help with strategies to either alleviate or mitigate those risks and prevent issues arising down the track. The James Hardie case brings home the need to be well informed as to the issues facing the business.
In your opinion, what do you consider to be the main challenges you face in your particular industry sector in the year ahead?
The trustee industry will need to continue to innovate in the provision of services, to keep pace with changes in the financial landscape, societal trends, technology and the law. I anticipate that in Victoria we will see reform to succession, guardianship, and power of attorney laws. State Trustees will need to continue to position itself to meet the requirements of an increasingly sophisticated and “tech-savvy” population, with more complex needs and circumstances.
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