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General counsel prepare for regulation onslaught in 2010

General counsel prepare for regulation onslaught in 2010

A spate of regulation on top of the various legal ramifications of the global financial crisis will keep in-house counsel busy next year, according to leading general counsel.

A spate of regulation on top of the various legal ramifications of the global financial crisis will keep general counsel busy next year, according to commentators.

Telstra’s group general counsel Will Irving told The New Lawyer that the next year will see in-house counsel making adjustments that have arisen out of the global financial crisis as well as the wide ranging reforms that 2010 will present.

Irving said that as 2010 approach, the key issues for most general counsel including preparing for and dealing with consumer law reforms, competition law reform, telecoms regulation and, particularly in Telstra’s case, the national broadband network.

In-house lawyers will also have to battle with the impact of the global financial crisis on financial regulation, Irving said.

Irving also predicts that the practical side of things, where the GFC has led to a greater focus on capital raisings for many companies, evolution of business plans to take account of the changed environment, will keep his team and general counsel generally busy next year.

Employment law, both in an industrial relations sense and at the senior end, will also keep general counsel on their game in 2010, Irving said.

John Chisholm, law firm consultant and former chief executive of law firm Middletons, agreed workplace and employment issues will keep in-house counsel, law firms and HR personnel generally busy.

“2010 is set to be a big year for law reform or at least legislative changes, so it seems. How much will actually improve business and how much will add to red tape is debatable but nevertheless that will mean business for law firms and in-house counsel need to be up to speed,” Chisholm said.

Chishom said general counsel need to be conscious of their teams’ utilisation as 2010 brings a raft of reforms.

“You just have to look at all the bills on foot and all the legislative change. That tends to happen with a government going into its second term. It’s great for lawyers but it does mean general counsel have to try and stay on top of this. And they need better utilisation to stay on top of it,” he said.

Pressed as to how general counsel will cope with the inevitable onslaught of work next year, Chisholm said that for the large in-house legal teams, “they can probably resource a bit themselves. with a mixture of using their panel solicitors”.

But for smaller organisations with one and two person legal teams, 2010 promises to be more challenging.

“There is a huge number of twp person legal teams out there that don’t have in-house teams of their own and limited legal budgets,” said Chisholm.

“How they get that information without it costing them in time and resources and money too much is the question. When you’re the only lawyer in-house it’s very hard. So they try and utilise their lawyers as much as they can, using legal updates and getting discounts from their law firms.

“It’s going to get increasingly complex. That’s why they belong to organisations like [the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association (ACLA)] to get what they can,” said Chisholm.

But, he noted, for the larger ones, “if you’ve got someone like Telstra saying it’s difficult, imagine what it’s like for smaller corporates”.


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