Can you tell us about your role, what you love about it and what it is teaching you about yourself?

As Corporate Counsel and Privacy Officer at Optimation Group, I am responsible for all legal, corporate, commercial contracts and compliance across three entities in the Group, spanning NZ and Australia. The scope of the role is potentially very broad as each entity is a separate business with a different focus, in a slightly different market. As the sole lawyer, I’ve learnt to spot the high risk, high value issues and focus my time on these as a priority. I’ve also learnt that I don’t need to immediately know the answer to every issue I encounter. Instead, having the confidence to problem solve with colleagues and tease out a solution is essential. Coming up with simple and creative solutions to interesting and difficult issues is probably one of the things I love most about my job. You might get hit with a challenging problem with no immediately apparent solution, but by the end of your discussions and some creative backwards and forwards, you’ve found a way through with a simple plan of attack. 

While the Optimation team is mid-size (over 150 people engaged in the business), we can come up with a solution and implement it in a very short space of time, which is very rewarding. I think I secretly enjoyed the first few weeks of lockdown, as we encountered the new directions from government and worked out how they impacted our business.

What do you do to build and enhance the influence of the in-house legal function across the organisation?

After recently listening to a great little webinar put together by Sian Wingate (thanks Sian!), on how to build your in-house legal brand – I’ve created a legal ‘brand’ for Optimation and started to send out semi-regular legal updates to the Sales and Leadership team with little reminders to reinforce the importance of certain practices within the organisation (ie. entering into NDAs before commercials discussions begin). I’ve also recently joined the Leadership team and this gives me an opportunity to have a say in strategic planning and visibility of initiatives much earlier than I would otherwise have had.

What is the biggest challenge in your role and how are you tackling it?

My biggest personal challenge is being in a team of one (ie. me). I report directly to the Board Chair and Owner and don’t have a team as such.  Staying connected with what’s going on, on the ground, can be challenging when the business is spread out across 4 offices in 4 cities and 2 countries, particularly now flexible working and working from home is becoming the norm. You can’t rely on those chats in the kitchen or stairwell, so I’m having to find new ways to connect with colleagues. I can’t say I found the solution yet - it’s a work in progress. But finding a reason to call someone or pop to their desk in person always trumps an email.

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

While I might work for a technology company and even on occasion call myself an IT lawyer, when it comes to technology “user error” is a common occurrence…! Now we have flexible working arrangements, Docusign has been essential to the digital signing process and storage of contracts. Microsoft Teams is also great for video meetings… and the odd Friday night drinks…. I’ve used Trello in the past and this can be a good team collaboration tool. Microsoft Teams also has great collaboration functionality. Given the piles of old contracts on my desk needing scanning and storage online (after a major clean up we’ve moved to paperless, where possible). If there was a way of automatically scanning physical contracts and saving documents in exactly the right folder on SharePoint - now that would be magic!