University of Canterbury Legal Team

Team Overview: Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury

The University of Canterbury's Legal Services Team collected the ILANZ 2022 award for Tompkins Wake Small In-house Team of the Year recently, and their Senior Legal Counsel, Laura Campbell was awarded the James & Wells Young In-house Lawyer of the Year at the NZ Law Awards: two exciting affirmations for University of Canterbury's first in-house legal team. We chat with them about how they support the work of the university, the challenges they are facing and what's the coolest project they have been working on.

UC Legal Services Team pictured (L-R): Laura Campbell (Senior Legal Counsel), Adela Kardos (General Counsel and Registrar), Sam Ruck (Legal Counsel), Megan Compton (Senior Legal Counsel), Grantley Judge (Governance and Compliance Manager) and Nadine Daines (Senior Legal Counsel).

Can you give us an overview of the legal team at Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury (UC) and how you support the work of the organisation?

We’re the first ever in-house legal team at UC. Since our establishment in late-2020, we have been building a legal function from scratch, to support UC in achieving its strategic goals through legal, policy, compliance and governance support.

With around 19,000 students and 3,400 staff, UC is an incredibly diverse and dynamic organisation, delivering world-class education, creative and innovative research and commercialisation, and forging new international partnerships and collaborations. Our team are lucky to advise on ground-breaking strategic projects, including transformative sustainability and digital initiatives, funding and delivery of over $100 million of world-leading research and innovation, and programmes that activate UC’s equity and Tiriti o Waitangi commitments. Along the way, we get to work together to shape UC Legal Services as a new and modern business function.

In-house legal are known to 'put out fires before they begin'. How does an in-house team mitigate and foresee risk before it arises?

We have focused on building great internal relationships and understanding the complexities of the various teams in our organisation. We want our clients to feel that we are approachable, supportive, and credible advisors. We know they’ll be more open to our advice and proactive in checking in with us when they know we are allies to their projects. That way we can help them install the smoke alarms, rather than hosing down the flames!

What do you see as the key challenges facing the team and how do you plan to address these?

Wouldn’t we all love to have a few more hours in the day? Short of that, we are focussing on setting up great processes, resources, and training to empower our staff to work independently. Our goal is to be able to focus our time on the high-value work and influencing strategic matters.

UC have been fortunate to have two wonderful Juno lawyers supporting our Research & Innovation department - Donna Cross and Anthea Herron, who have done a tremendous job winning the hearts of our clients and assisting our team to set up fundamental legal resources for UC’s Research & Innovation activities. Thank you, Donna and Anthea!

Are there any changes or new technologies you planning to roll out in the next 12 months?

UC is leveraging the same great technology platforms that we use for student learning and UC Online to launch best-in-class internal training courses. With the help of UC’s expert instructional designers, our legal team are designing and piloting some fantastic training in juicy areas such as privacy and conflicts of interest. UC Online also works with our academics and industry experts to provide bespoke business courses, so you can take advantage of this to fill your own knowledge kete!

What are the coolest things you have been working on?

One of the best things about working at a university is that our students and staff are constantly doing cool and exciting things, which means that as lawyers, we get to advise on cool and exciting projects! On a small scale, we have been working on the long-awaited return of the Teece-Townsend Telescope to the Observatory Tower in the CBD, which was destroyed in the Canterbury Earthquakes, and has been diligently restored by UC’s staff. On a bigger scale, we have been heavily involved in UC’s new Digital Screen Campus, which is an ecosystem dedicated to digital screen industries and a convergence of film production, game development and cross reality – a first of its kind in NZ!