Team overview: Vector

Team overview: Vector

Discover how the legal team at Vector, a leading energy infrastructure company in New Zealand, supports the organisation's diverse legal needs, builds relationships with various business units, and stays energised amidst the challenges of the dynamic energy industry.

Pictured L-R: (Standing): Carolyn Gillespie; Sophie Pettitt; Angela Doone; Anna Collins; Cyndi Brittain. (Seated) Isla Dentice-Wood; Harriet Blackburn. Absent: Lisa Morris.

Can you give us an overview of the legal function at Vector and how it supports the work of the organisation?

The legal team is small but perfectly formed – with a GC, company secretary, four senior legal counsel, a senior legal executive and a governance administrator. We assist all areas of the Vector group with all of their legal needs. This means that, on any given day, we might be giving Electricity Act advice to our electricity network business, providing advice on the Health and Safety at Work Act to our LPG retail business, or helping negotiate a contract for our digital solutions business.

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

The team is pretty senior, with a wealth of in-house and private practice experience. This doesn’t mean we know all of the answers all of the time, but it does mean that we can bring a “can do” attitude to our work and use our experience to know when we need external legal assistance. These attributes are respected by the people we work with. We also enjoy building relationships with people right across the Vector group and see ourselves as part of the team, not just advisers.

What are some of the ways the team keeps energised?

The energy industry keeps us energised! Puns aside, the energy industry is an interesting place to work at the moment, with lots of change underway and even more coming up, as the country looks to electrification to help us lower our carbon emissions. Vector is in the middle of this transition, with all our business units playing a role.  The variety of work also helps to keep the team energised. We each have different business units to partner with, but treat these divisions as soft-sided and flexible, to make sure we can meet the most important business needs and keep fresh and up to date across the group. As a business, Vector has embraced flexible working, but we all enjoy working together in person at our office at least twice a week, which keeps the team in touch (and caters for our caffeine requirements). Finally, there is often some kind of interesting deal or project going on at Vector, and the legal team is almost always an integral part of that.

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

As with most in-house teams, our greatest challenge is demand management. We almost always have more work coming in than we can do. This generally feels like an ok problem to have, as it reflects the value that the business places on the legal team’s input. However, there are times when the quantity of work is too much!  We have a few different techniques for dealing with this situation. We talk as a team daily and share workloads, so we can prioritise the more important and urgent work across the group. It also helps when we communicate with the business as early as possible on timing at our end. We have some great external lawyers that we use, and they help us with specific projects/matters and also more generally (e.g. by way of secondments).

Are there any changes or new technologies the team is planning to roll out in the next 12 months, and what impact do you hope they will have? 

We are implementing a new Contract Management System at Vector which is a significant technology project being championed jointly by procurement and legal and being delivered by our digital team. The project will improve our current contract lifecycle management tools and processes by delivering an easily accessible “single source of truth” that provides meaningful information, insights and data custodianship for the business.