We spoke with a handful of award winners from the recent Lawyers Weekly Corporate Counsel Awards about their achievements and the challenges they foresee on the horizon for in-house legal teams.
For Alex Feldman and Andrew Medlicott, the duo who took out the TMT Team of the Year Award, the focus moving forward is on the regulatory space, particularly Open Banking and its application to energy and telecommunications, as well as the data retention regime.
“Being in the energy business, our eyes are squarely on the National Energy Guarantee and all of the exciting technologies which will improve customer experience and engagement,” the pair said.
Unsurprisingly, technology advancements are on their radar.
“Technology continues to change our ways of working for the better – less admin, less mouse clicks, and more time tackling the big issues makes for a far more rewarding, fulfilling and manageable day at work [and] we’ll soon be looking for our law firm partners to adapt and adopt the tools that suit our needs,” they said.
“We’re excited by new tools and tech, and our approach has been to build bespoke products to suit our needs.”
Department of Defence:
Mark Cunliffe, Department of Defence head of legal, took home two awards: Government Lawyer of the Year, and his team won Government Team of the Year.
Speaking about the in-house public sector space moving forward, he said legislative changes currently underway regarding procurements would change the delivery of legal services.
“We must transition to what those arrangements are going to be, how they will affect us in our external engagement, and [learn] how best we can make those changes work to ensure we deliver,” he said.
In-house government practice will become more complex as a result, he said, as the new laws will offer a unique ability for those with tender offers pending to have avenues of redress.
“There is draft legislation in Parliament right now that will give a person who is dissatisfied doing a tender activity scope to have remedies available to challenge decisions, and potentially create an entitlement to recompense.”
In response to this – and other issues faced in-house, such as clients demanding greater outcomes in success and speed, with diminution rather than increases in costs – government counsels should better appreciate how best to serve, he advised.
“They should understand their clients better and thus be better placed to assist; they must know where they can go to get the right answers and then support clients,” he said.
Speaking as the winner of the Academia, Training and Education Lawyer of the Year Award, the University of Tasmania in-house counsel said lawyers such as himself are going to be called upon by educational institutions to experiment more and evolve into commercial entities.
“As educational institutions are looking for new ways to get students, and position themselves as leaders in the research and teaching space, in-house legal teams are going to need to be prepared to advise and provide assistance to continue to assist these initiatives,” he explained.
“It’s always important to expect the unexpected as well – [universities] are so varied and broad, you will always come across unusual things and be asked questions you never thought you’d hear.”
There will always be challenges to do more with less, he said, and thus it will be vital for counsel such as himself to look at ways technology and automation can best support the legal service delivery, so as to spend more time and energy on work that is high-risk and high-value.
In light of this, it’s important, he noted, to network and connect with other in-house lawyers.
“Supporting and being part of professional associations is vital for having those connections – in-house lawyers need to position themselves as highly skilled and engaging. Learning from peers is invaluable,” he said.
To see the full list of award winners from the recent Lawyers Weekly Corporate Counsel Awards, please click here.