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Navigating a recession — especially as a younger GC

This general counsel talks about how to be successful in the role of general counsel through a recession and discusses how to be taken seriously at a young age. 

user iconJess Feyder 30 January 2023 Corporate Counsel
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On an episode of The Corporate Counsel Show, Krystal Kovac, general counsel at Tonkin, spoke about how general counsel can manage and respond to a looming recession (assuming one comes to pass in Australia and/or globally), as well as shared her views on ensuring that one’s viewpoints and opinions are respected. 

“My first experience entering the legal profession was off the back of the recession,” said Ms Kovac

“So, I’m on the front foot about this one.


“Being that person that is a problem solver, that brings solutions, and also that person that people can give things to and go, ‘That person’s going to get it done, I can rely on that person,’ that will keep you in the role.”

“Through a recession, budgets will become tighter. We will be looking at which resources are crucial within the business.

“Making sure that you are an all-rounder, that you’re bringing that executive-level thinking to the table rather than just that legal aspect.” 

“That’s what GCs going through the recession need to be. It can’t just be, ‘I do the legal role, and that’s it.’ You have to be bringing solutions.”

“Making sure that you’re engaged in the conversations and contributing not only from a legal and compliance perspective, but are you taking part in pipeline conversations, marketing strategy, [and] direction of the company.”

Asking questions like, “What can we do to batten down the hatches to make sure that the company thrives through a recession rather than weathers it?” will also be critical, Ms Kovac went on.

“Another thing I do during a recession is being really intentional with my spend,” she noted, “any budget that’s coming through legal, I’m going to be thinking through 100 per cent, does that need to be spent, or can we do it in a more efficient way?”

“Looking at resources, looking at alternative ways to get work done and to meet the end goal that we’re looking for or that we’re aiming for, and leveraging technology where we can,” she added. 

In the same episode, Ms Kovak gave a series of tips for general counsel and also spoke about her journey to ensure she was being taken seriously at a young age. 

“The first challenge is your own internal monologue,” she commented. 

“The second point is realising that everyone is busy, and no one’s really taking note of your own career progression.

“If you are doing great things and you’re assuming these roles, and you haven’t been given a seat at the table yet, you need to assert yourself and ask for it.

“Having that conversation and saying, ‘I’ve done X, Y, and Z. I believe I would be great on the executive team because I’m already contributing in this way. Can we have that dialogue?’” Ms Kovac said.

Developing confidence is important, she added: “Entering boardrooms and knowing that you don’t need permission to speak. 

“They’ve invited you into that room because they value what you have to contribute. So don’t wait for permission.”

“Take the risk even if it feels uncomfortable,” she advised, “and surround yourself with peers; you’re going to need peers that you can rely upon to have as a sounding board.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Krystal Kovac, click below:

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