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When opportunity knocks
International firm comes under fire in Federal Court:

When opportunity knocks

With many in-house lawyers working 50-plus hour weeks, Peter Turner, CEO of the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association, asks what can be done in 2010 to turn things around. _x000D_

THE New Lawyer has kindly offered me the opportunity to submit a regular column on matters of interest to in-house lawyers.

In this inaugural note, I would like to pick up on the theme of ACLA’s 2009 National Conference, held in Melbourne just a few weeks ago: Opportunity Beckons: Performance in the Face of Change.

We are all under pressure to perform – to perform better, faster, cheaper – you name it.

Dr Sven Hansen, of The Resilience Institute, showed us at the conference what happens to your mind and your body when you’re constantly under pressure. It’s not a pretty sight! Nothing works properly, fresh ideas don’t come, life seems bleak. 

On the other hand, Li Cunxin, Mao’s Last Dancer, entertained us with the parable of the frog that lived at the bottom of a deep, dark well and had no idea of the sunshine and beauty that existed outside it. With hard work, commitment and courage however, the frog could eventually escape the well and find its place in the sun. So how do we find the right balance between these extremes?

The GFC has forced many of us to take a long, hard look at our lifestyles. Not just to consider how much money we spend but also to think about how we spend our time and what we are achieving with our efforts. 

With many in-house lawyers now working 50-plus hour weeks, putting in extra time at work doesn’t look like an attractive option. Ergo: we need to work smarter not longer. And that’s why opportunity beckons..

With the pressure on both in-house and within the law firms, now is an ideal time to reconsider the outsourcing – decision, our pricing arrangements with external advisers, how our departments are staffed and structured, whether we meet accepted benchmarks for in-house practice, how we can make optimal use of technology and what else we can do to lessen the load.

2010 may offer the best chance yet to ensure our actual results meet or exceed desired outcomes.

Peter Turner is the CEO of the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association (ACLA) and a member of the Advisory Board of the corporate counsel forum of the IBA. He was formerly vice president, legal affairs, at Foster’s Group Limited. 

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