Work-life balance goes out the window for corporate counsel when the economy dips, according to the group general counsel and company secretary of Insurance Australia Group Ltd (IAG).
Speaking today (4 August) at the LexisNexis National In-house Counsel 2011 conference in Sydney, Chris Bertuch said that continuing economic and regulatory uncertainty means in-house lawyers are expected to be available to deal with business issues at whatever time they arise - and that can play havoc with peoples' personal lives.
"In the current climate, this challenge is out of our control," he said. "How do we define our roles in ways that give us what we want from our careers?"
Bertuch said that the natural concern for an in-house lawyer is to do what is best for the business, which is an even greater issue in an uncertain regulatory, political and economic environment.
However, he said it is also important for legal counsel to "make conscious decisions" about how they want their career to impact on their lives.
"You don't have to strive to reach the pinnacle of your organisation ... Be true to yourself," he said. "Set clear priorities and communicate those priorities. Take responsibility for making them happen."
Bertuch added that while saying such things is easy, it is often far more difficult to put into practice, especially with the advent of technology which makes people accessible 24 hours a day. "Is technology a help or a hindrance?" he asked.
Bertuch added that while the global economy continues to flounder, in-house lawyers will be working hard to ensure their business weathers the storm - but for how long that storm will last, no-one knows.
"Nobody has any clear idea as to where we'll be in 12 months' time, either in the Australian economy or in other economies around the world," he said.
According to Bertuch, other challenges facing in-house lawyers include keeping the cost of external legal counsel down, protecting brand and image in the age of social media, anticipating changes in regulation and adapting to the demands of increasingly globalised businesses.
(LexisNexis is the publisher of Lawyers Weekly)