Can you give us an overview of the legal team at Metlifecare and how you support the work of the organisation?
We are a team of four Senior Legal Counsel (Katharine, Emma, Rowena and Camille), with Andrew leading the team in his role as GM Corporate Services. We provide legal and commercial advice to all business units, support the Board and management with corporate governance and company secretarial work, and assist with the risk and compliance aspects of the business. Additionally, the team has been heavily involved in the widely publicised scheme process from November 2019.
What do you do to build and enhance the influence of the in-house legal function across the organisation?
We work hard at building and maintaining strong connections with stakeholders from across the business. At the heart of maintaining those relationships is providing timely (and commercial) advice, having a good understanding of that internal client’s business unit, being approachable and friendly and showing a willingness to get things done efficiently and to a high standard.
What have been the impacts of the lockdown challenges on your team and how have you responded?
Each member of the team encountered their own unique challenges during lockdown. Some of us needed to step into completely new roles.
Emma – Like a lot of businesses, we had to respond and adapt very quickly to a rapidly evolving situation. Given our industry was classed as an essential service, there was a large workstream mobilised to support our residents and frontline staff, which legal was a part of – including supporting special board and subcommittee meetings. In addition to my legal role, I took on the role of managing communications with our residents throughout the crisis. While this dual role presented some challenging capacity issues at times, the daily interactions I had with residents were highly rewarding and grounded me during a period of extreme uncertainty. It also meant I got to collaborate cross-functionally with other teams, form some great new connections across the business and experience different ways of working. For me, one of the key challenges of lockdown was that there was suddenly very little separation between work and personal life. It was all too easy to stay glued to the computer day and night. I found I needed to be quite disciplined to ensure I was still looking after myself as well – with daily walks for fresh air and switching off when I could.
Camille – I had started working from home one day a week in early 2020, so I had the benefit of having trialled it out. However, lockdown was a different ball game for all of us. The working hours and unchartered territory that arises from a global pandemic while in lockdown were all consuming and the boundaries between work and home were blurred. However, we all adapted incredibly fast and mobilised quickly to support and service all business units. Part of my role has meant I have always had a strong cross-team working relationship with all the Property and Development teams at MET, but during lockdown, I ended up embedded in the daily development team meetings and collaboratively working with all development managers to shut down their construction sites safely and work through the challenges/hurdles they were facing. The main priority for the business during this time was of course our residents and I had a great time volunteering up at Hibiscus Coast Village 1 to 2 days a week. Not only did it allow me to get out of the house for a bit, the time I spent on the golf cart delivering mail, groceries and pharmacy deliveries to the wonderful residents were the highlights of my week.
Katharine - I already worked from home two-three days per week so that wasn’t an adjustment in itself, but learning to work with my new 4 and 6 year old co-workers presented lots of challenges! Working hours morphed into all hours of the day and night – everyone rallied together to just get the job done. It was a great experiment in resilience, collaboration, being innovative and working at pace.
Rowena - I returned from maternity leave following the lockdown and was really impressed by how the business had adapted to working from home. The option to work from home was greatly appreciated by me as it offered me additional flexibility to transition my son into care.
Andrew - In my role as GM Corporate Services, I lead the People and Legal/Corporate functions. Both teams absolutely rose to all challenges presented by the unprecedented lockdown – which included many from our Support Office being seconded out to villages to volunteer. Personally, I enjoyed the challenges and new ways of working from home – and now that lockdown is over we are implementing the many learnings from the varied and more productive ways of working.
Are you rolling out or planning to roll out any innovations to support the work of the legal team?
The team is constantly looking at ways to improve – not only as a team but also how we better serve our clients and continue to add value. We manage this through off-sites and everyone is also encouraged to keep a growth-mindset and be brave about suggesting better or different ways of doing things. We have a “learn-it all” culture where new ideas and approaches are welcomed. This includes how we better utilise technology, streamlining workstreams, and understanding at the core how we are contributing towards fulfilling our wider company purpose. Part of the team is currently involved in a business-wide innovation project which is very exciting.
How have you connected as a team during lockdown and looked out for one another?
We had regular WIP check-ins via Microsoft Teams and helped each other out when capacities were over-flowing – there was a constant sharing and reallocation of workstreams and everyone was willing to pitch in where they could. We were all mindful of everyone’s unique personal situations during lockdown and made sure to look out for one another not just on a work level but also a personal level. Connecting virtually definitely has its benefits but we are also looking forward to having regular face-to-face catch ups now that the lockdown is over.