What does leading the legal function at RockitTM involve and what does a standard day look like for you?

Our function is much like the Rockit apple – smaller than most (we’d argue perfectly sized) and a bit different…

The core legal work reflects Rockit’s positioning as a consumer brands business:

  • We manage a global IP portfolio covering trademarks, designs and patents, with the added twist of plant variety rights.
  • Our marketing calls for licensing arrangements with household names – e.g. a tie-up with Pac-Man that drew over 100 million views on Tik-Tok
  • Overseeing licensing arrangements for production, distribution, and retail – we have orchards in 9 countries, with distribution and retail relationships in more than 30.

In addition, the function is also responsible for commercial and development matters which cover:

  • Grower and investor relations – including managing relationships with independent growers, managed orchard syndicates, shareholders, and other stakeholders.  
  • Licence sales and the development of Rockit managed orchards (capital projects worth more than $50,000,000 in 2021).

So a ‘standard day’ could be anything from digging a hole in a paddock in Gisborne, to a Zoom call with external counsel in Vietnam to discuss a counterfeit issue, to a tour of new orchard plantings in France (hopefully in person soon!).   

Rockit prides itself on being pioneering and innovating – how does this impact how the legal team communicates and acts?

Like most start-ups, Rockit’s pioneering and innovative efforts have been focussed on product and market. In our legal roles, we focus on enablement and education. We don’t want to lose the disruptive spirit that started in our founder’s garage 10 years ago, but a business exporting 100 million apples (and doubling each year), and with teams around the world, needs a clear and robust framework to operate effectively. Alongside common, COVID-accelerated systems (e.g. Zoom), we are implementing LawVu to drive transparency, automation, and accessibility.             

What have been your most recent challenges as General Counsel and how did you address these?

COVID! As a 100% export business, establishing the function, building relationships, setting up systems, and solving problems has been made immeasurably harder by not being able to travel.   

How do you see the role of the modern in-house lawyer changing in practice?

I am not sure that the fundamental roles of the in-house lawyer – partner to the business and guardian of the corporation – will change. But how the tension between these roles is navigated will continue to evolve and adapt. As ‘beyond-financial’ measures of success and value continue to grow in importance, in-house lawyers will play an increasingly important role in helping businesses navigate and succeed.