WHEN BRUCE BROWN is not tied up in his new role as manager of the Commonwealth Department of Finance and Administration’s legal branch, there is a good chance you will find him working on his 40-acre farm at Murrumbateman, outside Canberra.
But now, his time will also be spent on his even newer role as national president of the Australian Corporate Lawyer Association (ACLA). If plans for the next two years of his presidency are anything to go by, Brown may have to delegate his lawn mowing duties to his children.
Brown’s appointment was announced last Friday at ACLA’s AGM, held on the second day of the Association’s national conference in Melbourne.
He has extensive experience with government regulators and only recently took up his role with the Department after five and a half years as general manager legal at the ACCC. Before that he spent nine years with ASIC, for the majority of which he was based in Tasmania. The last year and a half was spent in both Darwin and Brisbane.
ACLA’s national board meeting, which followed the conference on Saturday, went some way to setting Brown’s agenda for the months to come.
The board looked at how it was catering for its members in large, medium and small legal departments, corporate or government. “The feeling is that we need to do more for corporate lawyers in the small legal branches, because they are the ones that feel the most exposed, the ones that need the most help.
“I am looking at ramping up what we do in that area.” The Victorian branch of ACLA is trialling a monitoring scheme for its ‘small’ members, and will report to the National Board in March. “We want to see if that is successful, whether we can move that out nationally,” Brown said.
“The other thing I want to do is ramp up the ability of lawyers in small legal branches to get access to more and more assistance and advice from more experienced lawyers in other areas.”
As a long term government lawyer, Brown believes the issues facing corporate and government in-house practitioners are “far more similar than dissimilar”. Issues of legal privilege, and whether or not claims for it are being made successfully, aligning work practices with the business that employs you, the bugbear of time sheets, what work should be kept in-house or outsourced, and competing with private firms for good staff are issues common to both corporate and government lawyers, he said.
Other priorities for Brown are ensuring that the National Conference becomes a centrepiece for the association, and backing the Graduate Diploma, In-house Legal Practice, being developed by the College of Law and ACLA “to the hilt” to give it the “greatest chance of success”. Upgrading of ACLA’s website will also continue in order to provide more web-based services to its members.
Brown counts among his achievements the 1998 publication of consumer information book Scams and Swindles: Investment Disasters and How to Avoid Them, a Masters of Public Sector Management and a Master of Arts in history.