In the Spotlight: Chris Hall, Todd Corporation

In the Spotlight: Chris Hall, Todd Corporation

Chris Hall from Todd Corporation talks to us about his hybrid role of executive leadership and general counsel responsibilities...

Can you provide an overview of the legal function at Todd Corporation including the target operating model and how it supports the work of the business?

The Group Legal team provides legal advice and services to all The Todd Corporation operational and functional divisions. 

The team is based in Wellington and New Plymouth and services our NZ Upstream and Downstream (retail) energy businesses plus the corporate centre, made up of Group Finance (corporate development, tax, treasury, insurance etc) and Group Services (Health and Safety, HR, IT, Procurement and Corporate Affairs). We also have embedded General Counsel in our Property Division in Auckland, Minerals Division in Sydney and Perth, Natural Healthcare in Sydney and International Energy in Houston and Calgary. 

Our operating model is to:

  • Have senior lawyers holding relationship accounts with specific Divisions;
  • Spread work, legal staff management and development responsibilities across our senior lawyers, resulting in quality management of work, clarity /transparency in workflow, ability to provide supervision, coaching and development;
  • Have formalised relationship management and aligned practice areas, enabling proactive relationship management and communication, reduced competition between Divisions for individual lawyer resource;
  • Provide opportunity for specialisation within a team while maintaining access to a range of work and opportunity for advancement.

You undertook a significant internal review and refresh of your legal function several years ago. What did that involve and what further work are you intending to do?

We implemented our current team structure in 2016 and have tweaked it a little bit since. There had been a lot of change across the Company and we realised we needed to change too – for example we had grown from about 40 staff to about 1000!

We also had some feedback from our people about the need to evolve our approach to professional growth and development. And we sat down with our customers to talk about their needs and wants.

We then did a comprehensive review of the options for structuring and operating an internal legal team, decided what would be best for us and framed our restructure around 9 key customer service principles. As a result we implemented new:

  • structure, roles and resourcing
  • learning and development processes and opportunities
  • support functions
  • information management tools
  • client relationship protocols

Finally, we refreshed our engagement and relationship management with external lawyers. 

Your own role is a hybrid executive leadership and general counsel role. What additional value does that deliver to the organisation and what are the challenges of holding combined portfolios?

I have the good fortune to have a split functional and operation role. My legal role gives me breadth across the company and my operational role gives me depth in the areas I am responsible for – healthcare and technology investments in particular, where we have about 400 people.

I think the combined role is good for the organisation because I have that depth and breadth and because the operating role has enabled me to develop experience and insight into both business strategy and day to day practicalities of running a business. Each of the roles informs the other.

The main challenge of the split role is having enough time to do everything well – I am fortunate to have a great legal team and great management in our operating businesses.

What has being a multi-sport athlete taught you that you bring to your day job?

Good question. It certainly forces me to be disciplined with my time. It forces / enables me to spend time out of the office. It gets me into the hills and the back country or out on to the harbour for a lunch time paddle.

I think probably the greatest commonalities are the need for a long-term view, a good plan, persistence and making sure to enjoy and celebrate not only the outcomes but the journey too – even those 8 hour training days that sometimes just feel like a grind!

Are you rolling out or planning to roll out any new technology to support the work of the legal team?

Yes, we recently decided to adopt a new information management system for the team. We looked at a number of options and, as we speak, are about to deploy a new system with DocSmart Solutions. We think it will be a big step forward for us. Once that is up and running, we intend to do a diagnostic on our workflow / productivity and on spend analysis. Like everyone, we are aware of the importance of working smart and that the right technology can help us do that.