Georgina Sanders Mainfreight Juno Legal
Georgina Sanders with her children.

Can you tell us about your role at Mainfreight and what a typical day looks like for you?

I have been working at Mainfreight for seven years, starting straight out of university (well, after a year off with my first daughter). When I first started, there was a real need for someone with in-house legal knowledge to handle the increasing daily legal issues. Traditionally (and to this day), Mainfreight does not like to sign contracts, and our old-school ethos is to do business on a handshake. However, the commercial reality of that is not always feasible, so along came the need for my role.

My role is multifaceted; anything deemed “legal” lands on my desk. Over the years, I have grown the role from being a “legal tick of approval” just providing legal approvals, to be able to act in a more strategic/advisory capacity, thanks to a thorough understanding of how the business operates and thinks, whilst keeping legal issues at the fore.

As cliché as it might sound, no two days are the same—my tasks range from reviewing sales contracts and privacy concerns to negotiating property deals and keeping abreast of legislative changes. I enjoy the variety in my role and knowing that each day will have something that I wasn’t expecting.

What aspects of the role do you find most fulfilling, and what has it taught you, both professionally and personally?

One of the most fulfilling aspects of my role at Mainfreight is the flexibility it offers to engage in continuous learning, training, and development. Not specialising in one area, I am constantly learning about different legal aspects through immersion and practical experience. This role challenges me with new and innovative issues as developments in the freight and logistics industry arise, pushing me into diverse learning opportunities.

Professionally and personally, this role has taught me the importance of always being open to new knowledge, the ability to admit when I need extra help, and being a sponge with everything I'm doing. I believe we can never learn enough. The beauty of an in-house role is the wealth of knowledge within the business. I often find myself surprised by where and from whom I learn things, discovering that some of the most beneficial learning experiences have come from outside traditional learning frameworks.

Another deeply fulfilling aspect of my role is being involved in strategic decisions from the outset of a project or initiative and seeing it through to fruition. Working collaboratively with different teams across the business—operations, sales, legal, and more—allows me to see how all these functions come together to pull off a successful project. Witnessing the end result of these collaborations is always very fulfilling.

Additionally, I value the extensive network of relationships I've built across the company. Mainfreight's flat structure facilitates my involvement with teams throughout the business, enhancing connectivity and collaboration. As the sole in-house counsel, I also have the opportunity to work with a lot of fantastic external counsel, which helps build a great network of people I can rely on.

Can you share some recent challenges you've faced and the strategies you employed to overcome them?

Whilst I can’t get into specifics about issues we have faced, one of the challenges I sometimes struggle with as an in-house lawyer is striking the “perfect” balance between providing legal advice for the business and supporting the direction/position they want to take.

Lawyers can have a bit of a bad rap where they are the ones to handbrake initiatives or say “no” a lot. I have found that the relationships that I have built with the team, along with my intimate understanding of the business, allow me to help navigate these issues by being able to work with rather than against the team when looking for solutions.

Through upskilling and working with the team to understand the law and the legal implications, it allows for more cohesive conversations and helps us all be on the same page. Once people understand the "why" behind your answer, they feel empowered to make their next decisions based on that rather than being combative.

With the new Continuing Professional Development (CPD) year underway, what are your key focus areas for learning and how do you decide where to put your focus?

I like to stay on top of employment law updates and approaches to managing ER issues. I work closely with our Head of People here at Mainfreight, and I feel this area is heightened given the intimate 'people' element.

Privacy is also another area that I tend to focus a lot on because, given the international nature of Mainfreight, it is important to ensure that our policies are up to date.

I’m also aiming to expand my expertise in understanding financial statements and corporate governance, as these are increasingly relevant to my work with the business.

What is the one piece of technology (either current or yet to be created!) that would make your day job easier?

Ooo, this is a hard one. I'm eyeing a few pieces of legal software at the moment to try to quicken the pace at which we can review legal contracts and for matter management.

I’d love something that was able to help prompt our team for a first review of contracts on the key things that we need to be included or would need to be excluded. For example, we get a lot of NDAs, and often I feel I’m giving the same feedback to everyone. I would love something that could review that, in the first instance, and provide the necessary clauses that I have drafted to help the team, push them through and then send on the ones that didn’t meet the criteria or needed further review. That would make my day job easier.