Donna Cross Juno Legal
Donna Cross, Juno Lawyer

Arriving in Blenheim for the ILANZ conference this year, I was struck by the autumn colours covering the countryside like a blanket. Beautiful.   

The conference kicked off with a welcome function on Tuesday night at ASB Theatre. It was great catching up with existing friends and making some new connections.  

Conferences can sometimes be daunting for those attending alone and for younger members of our community, so it was heartening to see and hear how approachable and welcoming people were. Being that ‘friendly face’ can really make a difference to the experience for others.  

The conference programme did not disappoint, providing some exceptional and practical CPD across two days. The only disappointment was the feeling of missing out as it wasn’t possible to attend all sessions (tip – if attending with others, try to get to all sessions between you and then share key insights!).  

It’s not possible to touch on all sessions here but some highlights for me were: 

  • Professor Paul Spoonley’s talk on NZ’s Changing demographic and its effect on business (“embrace diversity because the tipping point is close”);  

  • The insights from the GenAI sessions “Trustworthy AI” (Amy Dove and Maggie Zheng) and “Use of AI by In-house Counsel” (panelists Lisa Gerard and Matt Farrington, moderator Rochelle Furneaux). It’s valuable hearing how others are approaching GenAI, whether that be when advising their organisations on the use of GenAI or looking to incorporate it into their own toolkit. On data protection “the most important thing is understanding where your data is going [and what is being done with it]”.  

I’m also grateful to the speakers across the 2 days for sharing their personal stories and experiences with us.  

The conference is of course an opportunity to socialise and have some fun.  

On the second night we jumped onto buses for the Marlborough Mystery Tour, six buses (I think) heading off in pairs to different mystery locations). A great night.  

On the final night, we headed to the Niche Gala Dinner and Awards Ceremony at Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre, with the event held in the Dangerous Skies WW2 exhibition area (such a great asset for Blenheim and the Marlborough region). Kudos to all award finalists and huge congratulations to the award Winners.  

I asked my Juno Legal colleagues what their highlights from ILANZ 2024 were: 

“Learning about the Aussie Robodebt case and how the combination of failure in leadership plus legal not stepping in to assert the true risk led to disaster. It was interesting to reflect upon how legal could have played a clear whistleblower role.” Caroline Tate

“I enjoyed the keynote speakers bringing different perspectives. It was great that many of the sessions included contributions by colleagues in in-house roles, in addition to the speakers who were experts and consultants.” Wendy Chen 

“I really enjoyed the AGM and the warm welcome that ILANZ is giving to lawyers like us who effectively practise in-house but are technically employed by a law firm.” Helen Mackay

A big thanks to Juno Legal for supporting me to attend the conference this year, and to the ILANZ committee, conference organisers, sponsors, presenters and MC. It was a great event.  

To end on something that resonated with me from Ziena Jalil’s “Change for Good” talk “You have agency. Use it”. 

A group of trees with yellow leaves

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Autumn in Marlborough 


Marlborough Mystery (Bus) Tour. Meeting new people is always a highlight of the ILANZ conference. With Janet Ashcroft (Otago Regional Council), credit Nicola Cody (Thomson Reuters New Zealand).  

A person in a military uniform

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Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre (venue for the Niche Gala Dinner and Awards Ceremony). Amazing work by Weta Workshop 


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With members of the fantastic NZTE Legal Team (Beth Mulcock, Kate Moran and Josh Templeton) who I’m currently working with. With some of the team being based in or with connections to the Marlborough/Tasman region, we took the opportunity to get together after the conference for some co-working at Marlborough Library Te Kahu o Waipuna. We missed you Hester Steevens! 

A group of bottles of wine

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Supporting local with some gifts for back home!   

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On the road trip home. Ohau Point Lookout . This little guy spent a lot of time trying to get up on that rock with his mum (ever feel like him in that photo?!).