How did you come to your current GC role, and what advice can you offer to aspiring in-house lawyers/general counsel?
Like many lawyers, I gained my initial experience working in private practice. After spending approximately four years [in private practice], I transitioned to an in-house role as a lawyer with Coles Myer. I then worked as the general counsel and company secretary for Gazal Corporation Limited from 2004 to 2008 before I moved to my current role in 2008, heading up the legal, compliance and company secretary functions of Samsung Electronics.
To succeed as a general counsel, you need to be a very good manager and communicator and ensure that the advice given to the business is concise, timely, accurate and commercial. I recommend having an open door policy and ensuring that you are fully across all sectors of the company. As the transition from private practice is generally a one-way street, make sure you are ready for the move. Do your research since life as an in-house lawyer can be very different to private practice.
The role of the general counsel is diverse and multi-faceted. In light of the James Hardie case, how does your GC role fit in with the business?
A general counsel must be proactive in bringing any material risk to the attention of senior management, while understanding that you can be an integral player in a company’s decision-making process. In this capacity as both advisor and influencer, your integrity and your diligence are fundamental. On a different note, with Australia’s rigorous competition and consumer protection laws, compliance is a critical function of the job. One of my top priorities is ensuring that Samsung employees are well informed on Australian law, such that our culture of compliance can operate effectively.
What do you consider to be the main challenges you face in your industry sector in the year ahead?
As Samsung Electronics is at the cutting edge of technology innovation, there is constant pressure to consistently deliver breakthrough consumer electronic products. Given the high pace and fast moving environment of the technology sector, there will always be pressure to maintain a market-leading position whilst ensuring legal, compliance, governance and risk management are at the forefront of all organisational business decisions.
Furthermore, given the rapid growth of the Internet of Things and the high demand for social media, there will be challenges from a legal and compliance perspective as the local laws and regulations try to keep pace with the ever-changing nature of the internet.