With the in-house legal profession appearing to gain greater traction, three general counsel have revealed what outsiders might not know about this career path.
Speaking ahead of Lawyers Weekly’s inaugural Corporate Counsel Awards, L’Oréal general counsel, Australia and New Zealand Anna Lozynski said what many people outside of corporate counsel fail to realise is the variety that the in-house culture offers.
“Sometimes the role of general counsel is as much about being a change management practitioner as it is about managing legal risks and protecting the reputation of the company,” Ms Lozynski said.
“My approach depends on the context and which work hat I am wearing. For example, we operate as business advisers when we are in senior leadership or executive team meetings. In my view, the core skill of a great lawyer is to be able to simplify and make accessible that which can be legally complex or nebulous. Doing this effectively naturally means referencing the business and, if relevant, industry context.
“There’s increasing discussion, particularly within the in-house profession, about 'scope creep'. The role of the GC is certainly expanding, but in my opinion this is an exciting opportunity for lawyers at all levels to expand their professional and personal skills. That kind of learning on the job is invaluable.
“On the other hand, private practice practitioners are being encouraged to become more specialised. It’s an interesting dichotomy within the profession at present. It presents a wonderful opportunity for firms who are willing to be a little bold and disruptive.”
Nine Entertainment Co. general counsel Rachel Launders suspects those outside corporate counsel don’t always understand the many problems general counsel, as well as in-house lawyers and legal teams, get called on to solve.
“It might be employment issues or our obligations under the ASX Listing Rules, or it might be about content; there’s a very wide range of work,” she said.
“I also think sometimes outsiders don’t necessarily appreciate the size of the team or the level of sophistication that legal teams have internally, to deal with challenging and complex issues.
“We are seeing new developments in the media landscape as they evolve, so could well be dealing with issues before external lawyers first need to consider them.”
This sentiment was echoed by Qudos Bank general counsel Cindy Hansen.
“I’d say that outsiders probably don’t appreciate the ‘general’ in general counsel,” she said.
“Our role is not limited to the legal. In fact, there are times when our advice has less to do with the company’s legal obligations than with logistics and practicalities.”
Lawyers Weekly’s inaugural Corporate Counsel Awards will recognise Australia’s best in-house lawyers and legal teams across all areas of expertise and organisations of all sizes.
The awards will bring together all industries across Australia, paying tribute to professionals who have paved the way for achievement and advancement in their chosen organisations.
The event will be held at The Westin Sydney on 17 February, 2017.
To learn more about the event, click here.
To fill out a submission, click here.