Emerging commercial fields an opportunity for junior legal counsel

By Jerome Doraisamy|03 September 2019

It is challenging to ingratiate one’s self into a developing market, but it may also provide an ideal chance for a young in-house lawyer to step up, argues one general counsel.

For younger legal practitioners in-house, it can be difficult to come into a business situated in an industry that is rapidly evolving, muses Laser Clinics Australia general counsel Kirsty Silbert, particularly if legislation hasn’t quite caught up to the developments of that industry.

This can influence how one conducts themselves day-to-day, she said on The Corporate Counsel Show.

“I think it’s really an exciting opportunity for young lawyers because it is still an evolving area, so if you’re a fast learner and you can hit the ground running, you can really make your own space within this area,” she said.

“There would be benefits in this particular industry to having a pharmaceutical background, as well as commercial training. So there certainly are opportunities for a different type of junior lawyer coming through the ranks.”

In her industry, for example, franchising agreements are proving to be a particularly challenging hurdle, she said.

“As well as the industry challenges with cosmetic aesthetics, we are also a franchise business, and youd probably be aware of the scrutiny thats been over the franchising industry of late. So, its really challenging just to ensure that our system is not caught up in the negative media,” she said.

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“Weve got unique advantages in a franchise system of actually being 50/50 owned with our franchised stores. Ive certainly got other colleagues that I catch up with regularly in franchising, and some of the challenges in terms of the inquiry and the changes that theyre looking to bring in will make things far more difficult to franchisors in the future.”

The heat around franchising ran in conjunction to the Hayne royal commission, Ms Silbert added, with both inquiries providing invaluable lessons for businesses such as her own, but more broadly for in-house counsel in businesses situated in developing industries.

“I think, at a high level, the criticisms from the banking royal commission and the franchising inquiry pertained more to corporations that perhaps werent behaving well, rather than endemic issues with franchising. The issues that have been brought out in the media are not common to all franchisors, so its important that we keep the focus on franchisors who are doing the right thing,” she said.

But such scrutiny has also offered chances to evolve, she posited.

“One of the opportunities thats comes out of the franchising enquiry is we have looked at the recommendations and made changes within our business, even though those recommendations havent been legislated yet. So, again, its moving toward what we believe is best practice and what offers our franchisees the best level of trust and support in terms of the network,” she said.

In-house counsel coming through the ranks can ultimately glean a lot from experience in such developing industries, Ms Silbert surmised, but said it is “really determined by your personality”.

“I enjoy having the opportunity to advise on new products and new ideas, particularly where youve got the ability to add some commercial slant to the outcome as well. You can be very innovative within the role,” she concluded.

To listen to Jerome’s full conversation with Kirsty Silbert, click below:

Emerging commercial fields an opportunity for junior legal counsel
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