Seeing innovation as a pillar of strategy
One chief legal and risk officer discusses the need for an innovative mindset as a developed soft skill for in-house lawyers.
Recently on The Corporate Counsel Show, host Jerome Doraisamy spoke with Investa chief legal and risk officer Lesley Chan. In that conversation, Ms Chan discussed the importance of going above and beyond for corporate legal professionals.
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“Governance permeates through the entire organisation — when done well, it’s a well-oiled machine, but if it becomes sticky, everyone feels it,” she said.
“I’m involved in trying to shape everyone, to get them into habits that the business values, because it means we don’t need to spend too much time fixing problems since we’ve got it set up right.”
Ms Chan discussed the skills needed to be a “change agent”.
“One of my lessons learned from the past is that signalling change is something which is actually a different skill set, but one which is quite complementary to lawyers,” Ms Chan highlighted.
“When new regulation comes through, we’re trying to make sure the business understands what it is, and make sure the business operationalises it.”
“It’s a bit of a translation piece, to make sure things make sense to the people who are going to live and breathe them on a day-to-day basis,” she noted.
“In-house teams work really closely with the executives and the CEO because we are so ingrained with the strategic direction of the business.
“I think that’s one of the best things about working in an in-house role — that access to senior executives and people who are able to help move things out of your way.”
With this in mind, Ms Chan reflected, innovation is everything.
“Innovation is one of our pillars of strategy — and continuous improvement is encouraged,” she highlighted.
“When strategies are ingrained in a business, and one of those pillars of your strategies is to innovate and continuously improve, change projects are permeated through an entire business.
“I’ve been quite careful in terms of who I work with, because they need to gel with your personal philosophy.”
“I’m a curious person, I think we shouldn’t be stagnant; change is constant, aligning yourself with a business which has that philosophy, and means you can find support from all those in the organisation when undertaking projects,” she explained.
Ms Chan discussed how those coming through the legal profession can incorporate the skill of innovation into their arsenal.
“Part of it is being personally curious, always being open to learning and asking questions,” she explained.
“For me, working with our change innovation team, and getting training around change management, is another piece.
“Tapping into those resources has been invaluable.”
“The focus is around affecting change; I believe it’s a complementary skill set, and a soft skill,” she noted.
“The importance of the person who sits in those in-house teams and leads the function is reflective of the critical role we play in the organisation, which is infinitely exciting.”
“You have an equal voice at the table, where I think in more traditional ways, people think of lawyers as ‘they’re the hand break to happiness’, it’s not a true reflection of how you partner with a business,” posited Ms Chan.
“Many doors are opened to you as an in-house member. You have the luxury of delving into things as teams as you like; you can step out when you don’t have the capacity to do things.”
The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Lesley Chan, click below: