find the latest legal job
Banking Associate - 1-6PQE - Allen & Overy
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: United Kingdom
· Banking Associate - 1-6 PQE - Allen & Overy
View details
Academic Dean and Head of School of the TC Beirne School of Law
Category: Other | Location: Brisbane QLD 4000
· An outstanding opportunity · Provide educational, research and organisational leadership
View details
Senior Property Lawyer I Commercial Litigator
Category: Property Law | Location: Arncliffe NSW 2205
· Rapidly growing law firm, working with a highly experienced team in a high growth industry across all areas of property and strata law
View details
Senior Property Lawyer I Commercial Litigator
Category: Property Law | Location: All Sydney NSW
· Rapidly growing law firm, working with a highly experienced team in a high growth industry across all areas of property and strata law
View details
Senior Property Lawyer I Commercial Litigator
Category: Property Law | Location: Sydney NSW 2000
· Rapidly growing law firm, working with a highly experienced team in a high growth industry across all areas of property and strata law
View details
Helen Gillies, Corporate counsel of Sinclair Knight Merz

Helen Gillies, Corporate counsel of Sinclair Knight Merz

To say Helen Gillies has a fair bit on her plate is an understatement. Having started out at engineering and project delivery firm Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM) in 1995 as its first corporate…

To say Helen Gillies has a fair bit on her plate is an understatement. Having started out at engineering and project delivery firm Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM) in 1995 as its first corporate counsel, she single-handedly got the firm's legal division up and running.

She's watched as the company has grown from 700 to 7000 staff, in which time her own team has expanded to 16 lawyers globally, and the team now provides advice for the company in multiple languages, for projects spanning multiple jurisdictions. As the company has expanded, she's also taken on additional managerial roles at various times, including director of the main management company, chairman of the risk and compliance committee and member of the governance committee.

Gillies' work is varied, but she points to construction, engineering, intellectual property, employment, safety and corporate law as key areas of focus for her team. In addition, she explains, the firm has set its sights high, and as a result, M&A work has had an increasingly prominent place on the team's workload.

"Over the last 12 years we have completed more than 50 mergers and outsourcings - which have kept the team very busy," she says. "We expect merger work to continue and become more complex as we achieve our vision to become a top 10 design and delivery firm globally."

Like many in-house lawyers, Gillies began her legal career in private practice, where she worked for six years specialising in construction and engineering. However, a desire to get more involved in the practical delivery of projects drew her to seek out an in-house role in the engineering and construction sector.

"In an in-house role you have a stronger ability to deliver outcomes and make a difference on projects that comes from being part of the fabric of the place. I have to say this was not an opportunity I saw in private practice. Working from within lets me get very close to the business. It's more interesting and motivating," she says.

The role at SKM was particularly attractive, she says, because it has enabled her to effectively mould the legal division from scratch. "I was very attracted to the opportunity to be the firm's first corporate counsel - to get in on the ground and shape the way a legal team could add real value to the business."

Though developing a global legal team was no doubt a challenge, Gillies has clearly met it - in 2008 being named ACLA's Corporate Lawyer of the Year.

She puts her success down to looking outside the law and thinking commercially. "Each team member has input into our risk profile on key projects and provides more than just legal advice to our project managers," she explains. "For us it's all about bringing a commercial approach and being a trusted adviser."

>> For the latest news, views and analysis of issues affecting in-house lawyers, check out Lawyers Weekly's dedicated in-house site www.lawyersinhouse.com.au

Like this story? Read more:

Book commemorates diamond milestone for WA law society

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

Helen Gillies, Corporate counsel of Sinclair Knight Merz
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Gavel, legal book, criminal lawyers
Jan 19 2018
Three criminal lawyers named NSW magistrates
The NSW Attorney-General has announced the appointment of three new local court magistrates. ...
Warning
Jan 18 2018
Lawyer highlights ‘unintended consequences’ on SSM estate planning
A succession lawyer has warned that the right for same-sex couples to legally marry could have a sub...
drug rehabilitation services available in rural and remote communities
Jan 18 2018
ALS survey shines spotlight on insufficient rehabilitation services
A new survey posted by the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) has revealed an alarming insight into ...
APPOINTMENTS
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
opinion
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
Help
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...