Can you tell us a bit about your role, your teams and how they support the work of the Electricity Authority?
The Electricity Authority’s primary function is to regulate New Zealand’s electricity system and markets, actively monitoring behaviour, enforcing the rules and holding industry participants to account. We are kaitiaki of electricity and our purpose is to enhance New Zealanders’ lives, prosperity and environment through electricity. No small task when you consider how critical electricity is to New Zealand’s low emissions future.
I’m the GM of Legal, Ministerial, Monitoring and Compliance. The Legal team (pictured) provides advice and enables the organisation to deliver its key initiatives and functions. My other three teams (not pictured) are Ministerial, Monitoring and Compliance. Ministerial is responsible for engagement with the Minister’s office and OIAs. The Monitoring team monitors the industry for competitiveness, efficiency and reliability. The Compliance team is responsible for educating, monitoring, investigating and enforcing industry compliance.
What do you do to enhance the influence of the in-house legal function across the organisation?
My main focus for the legal team initially was about being part of the team helping to deliver the organisation’s outcomes. I really like the way Una Jagose QC, the Solicitor General, describes lawyers as a profession of problem solvers – that’s exactly how I see it. I believe if you are part of the team, with shared accountability for solving the problem, your influence is greater than a lawyer who sits back and waits to the end to veto ideas. My team is approachable, engaged and prepared to pitch in. As a result, internal clients want their advice.
What do you see as the key challenges facing the team and how do you plan to address these?
Like probably all in-house legal teams, we have more work than we can do. It’s all interesting, complex and relevant which is a great challenge to have. We’re pulling all the levers you’d expect – empowering internal clients, leveraging externals as needed and expanding the team.
What do you do to prioritise the work of the legal team towards high value/high risk work and out of lower-level work?
Having worked in large corporates with stretched legal teams I was pretty used to the challenge of reducing involvement in lower-level work. When I started here there was some low hanging fruit which we dealt with early on with templates. We can do a bit more with training, tools and empowering our internal clients but for the most part the team’s work is in the high value space, which means prioritisation is key. I’m a big supporter of technology to help too – in my last job my team leveraged technology to help and that’s always a good tool to have in the toolkit.
Boldness is one of the values of the Electricity Authority – how does this impact how the legal team communicates and acts?
Being bold means thinking creatively, understanding your organisation’s risk tolerance and making recommendations with that context in mind. The team is not afraid to deliver the best advice even if that advice is not the answer people want to hear.