The legal team (From left to right): Charly Thorpe (on maternity leave), Tania Adams, Ruth Sullman, Rachael Lynch (on loan from Juno), Serica Cooke. Absent: Rebecca Holbrook, GC, is based in Sydney.  

Can you give us an overview of the legal team and how it supports the work of Fisher & Paykel Appliances?

Fisher & Paykel Appliances is a global business with a head office in New Zealand. So the bulk (4 out of 5) of the team is based in Auckland and Rebecca Holbrook, General Counsel, is based in Sydney. We are pretty lucky, in that our team supports the whole of the global business. This means we get to do some pretty interesting and varied work supporting all facets of the business from sales, marketing, procurement, customer services through to product development throughout the globe including in New Zealand, Australia, North America, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Thailand and China. 

What have been your most recent challenges as an organisation and a legal team?

As well as dealing with the global pandemic and all that entails for a global appliance manufacturer, last year Fisher & Paykel Appliances was the subject of a cyber attack  Both these things meant the team had to adapt very quickly to new ways of working. Fortunately we already had a lot of systems and structures in place to enable remote working including shared email folders and a cloud based contracts management database. 

The cyber attack really brought to the fore for the business how important it is to have robust compliance programmes in place, particularly for privacy. This has been really helpful in bringing some really positive engagement from all of the organisation in ensuring compliance. The legal team have sought to harness this and continue to drive awareness of each individual’s role in ensuring compliance through training, Yammer competitions and online privacy updates.    

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

As with most in-house legal teams, our aim is to be seen as a trusted advisor. In order to do this it is critical that we build positive and strong relationships with our colleagues in all other parts of the business across the globe. This doesn’t just come from sending out regular updates on relevant legislation change – although we do this - it comes from working closely with people, understanding what it is that they need from us to enable them to be successful in their role within our business and providing pragmatic and commercial advice. It helps that a lot of the matters we get to work on are really interesting – check out some of the beautiful projects on our website. 

Providing face to face (or via video conference nowadays!) training on relevant compliance issues to different teams within the business and involvement in many cross-functional committees also gives us the opportunity to build relationships and let people know we are here to help.

'Trusted' is one of the values of the organisation – how does this impact how the legal team communicates and acts?

This is a value that resonates with a lot of people within our organisation. Trust is critical to maintaining strong, positive relationships with your colleagues, customers and regulators. People within Fisher & Paykel are not afraid to point out behavior or decisions that may not be consistent with our values and the Trusted value is really useful when considering our approach to many issues, including privacy, customer care, product design and marketing.