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May 27, 2021

Wisdom from Wellington

Last week, Andrew Dentice, Sonya Hill and I were lucky enough to attend the annual ILANZ conference in Wellington at Te Papa. Each of us has worked in-house for a chunk of our career and understand the pressures and issues faced by growing in-house teams. It was an opportunity to catch up with clients, make some new friends and hopefully take away some nuggets of wisdom. 

Jam Packed Programme

After being cancelled last year, this year’s conference more than made up for it, with a well-balanced programme including sessions that were valuable to attendees in both their professional and personal capacities. There was a definite COVID-focus with a couple of great panel discussions which included Foodstuffs, Airways and the Ministry of Health on how they coped with the crisis (and kept the shelves stocked!) to Fonterra and Air NZ on managing a global business when the world has closed down. Whether it was a discussion on implementing a crisis management plan (and how to actually operate under one) or understanding from Megan Main how MIQ got stood up in its early days, all the sessions were timely and relevant. We were prompted to manage our mental health and thrive in uncertainty, to actively encourage diversity and inclusiveness and given some practical tips on how to better give and receive feedback (both at home and at work!). 

Let's Talk Privacy & Digital Disruption

The Privacy Commissioner, John Edwards, talked us through the first six months of the new Privacy Act in New Zealand and the trends his office had seen since the risks ofnon-compliance increased – his was an interactive session and clearly attendees were looking out for him, with the most up voted question being “how are you?”. Next on the programme was an interesting juxtaposition with Stephen Scheeler taking us through digital disruption and how to stay relevant in a quickly changing world. Stephen’s key advice to attendees is to look at the data – make sure you’re putting it into the hands of decision makers so they are properly informed and prepared to harness the opportunities digital presents. Unfortunately Stephen was presenting remotely so there was no chance for he and the Privacy Commissioner to have a chat, but the key message we took away from his session was that if we want to make sure the future doesn’t look like an episode of Black Mirror, we need to be strategic in managing digital disruption and making it work for us.

Change Culture

Another highlight was a challenging session on changing the culture and perception of the legal profession, both as in-house and out-house counsel, following the disappointing revelation that we as lawyers currently sit below journalists on the general public’s “trusted” scale. Quentin Lowcay from Datacom, Maria Pozza from NZ Post and the rest of the panel really emphasised that it’s no tone type of organisation that is the problem and that we all have the power to promote and force behavioural change. Whether it’s asking your external lawyers if they truly have capacity before instructing, properly living healthy work-life balance and mental health practices as senior lawyers setting examples for your juniors, or more practically how we will need to go about implementing active anti-bullying and whistle-blowing policies under the new Law Society conduct and client care rules, the panel agreed that while progress had definitely been made, there was still work to do.     

For Sonya, Andrew and me, it was also a great opportunity to be back in Wellington where we have each worked and lived in the past. Wellington really didn’t disappoint, living the adage of not being able to beat it on a good day. We look forward to next year’s conference in Christchurch!

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