Can you describe a typical day in your role as Director, Legal at Te Pūkenga and the main challenges you face?
I try to start each day with a strong coffee and some quiet time to catch up on emails from overnight and the previous day. Then, the rest of my day is usually split between answering emails and phone calls, drafting and reviewing documentation, and meetings. Meetings can be anything such as check-ins with team members, meeting with internal stakeholders to provide advice or obtain a briefing on new matters, or meeting with external parties such as insurance brokers or project managers. The main challenge is trying to fit everything into one day and remembering to switch off! My team is responsible for advising national office as well as 24 business divisions across the country, so there is no shortage of work to do. I work from home at least half of the time and, while the flexibility is great, I really struggle with closing my computer at the end of the day. There is always the temptation to just get one more email done, and then another…
How has your corporate and commercial law background influenced your approach to legal strategy at Te Pūkenga?
Working as a commercial lawyer in private practice, there was always a strong focus on customer service and I aimed to provide an efficient and friendly service. I have taken the same approach to my in-house work. I aim to turn work around quickly (as workload allows!) and I try to be friendly and approachable. I treat my internal stakeholders as ‘customers’ and try to provide everyone with same level of service.
What are the key goals or initiatives you're currently focusing on at Te Pūkenga?
We have just merged the local legal teams that previously supported individual Te Pūkenga business divisions into a single national legal team to support the entire Te Pūkenga network. Going forward, we will be focusing on building the national team by, among other things, building a job management and allocation workflow and putting in place national policies and procedures. In order to try and manage our significant workload, we will also be developing a legal self-help function, supported by a targeted range of legal templates and guidelines.
How do you foster a positive and effective team culture within the legal department at Te Pūkenga?
We have a wonderful team of experienced lawyers spread throughout the country. Most of us have been working together for a few years now as the legal advisers for our respective business divisions, and we all have different strengths and personalities that complement each other well. Being so spread out geographically, we have regular Teams catch-ups to discuss issues of mutual interest, whether that’s an interesting case that someone is working on, or a new team-wide initiative. Once a year, we all get together in person to discuss strategic matters in detail.