ILANZ, In-House Lawyers Association of New Zealand

ACC Australia National Conference 2017 - reflections

ACC Australia National Conference 2017 - reflections

By Herman Visagie, General Counsel TSB Bank and Vice President ILANZ Committee| 18 December 2017

 “The show will go on, but it will be a different sort of show, not the one we necessarily auditioned for. We need to be ready to become other characters, embrace different tasks, seize opportunities to step into other roles.”

These were the words of Sarah Taylor reflecting on the ILANZ Conference 2016. They have stuck with me since, and coming out of the 2017 Association of Corporate Counsel Australia conference these words cleverly summarize the key takeout I have from my time across the ditch.

In 2017 change is everywhere, both in our personal and professional lives. From the rise of Artificial Intelligence, the stratospheric rise of e-commerce sites, big data, and the growth of global companies, change is all around. And ultimately it is here to stay, so as lawyers we have to accept that or risk being left behind.

Selfie2Throughout the three day conference in the beautiful Alice Springs the twin themes of agility, and its sister resilience, were ever present.

From the opening address by Shane Philips, an inspiring indigenous leader, about the need to look at new ways of engaging with our diverse communities, the scene was set.

During a panel discussion on the Rise of the Millennial, the panel touched on the differences between the generations, and of course noted that Millennials had different base expectations around work. The most relevant takeaway for me, however, was that many of the aspects of the so-called ‘Millennial Mindset’ such as expectations around bespoke service, the hatred of inefficiency and expectations of multidisciplinary approaches to problems have, in fact, become the new norms in business for all, not just the ‘Millennial’.

Similarly in the discussion around legal innovation the speakers noted that questions around ‘what is our job? And what are we willing to let go of?’ are ones which we should constantly be asking ourselves. Underlying this question is an ongoing expectation that we will continually innovate and adapt to ensure we are most effectively meeting the needs of our organisations.

Shane PhillipsIn a later discussion titled ‘Will robots replace the lawyer?’ the overarching conclusion was that while they would definitely lead to significant change in the future, no-one could definitively say what the future holds. This statement ultimately summarised the key message for me. The only certainty we have is that the world around us will continue to change. Thus, as workers, lawyers, and individuals it is paramount that we ensure that we are able to navigate whichever future may present itself to us.

The other side of this constant change is that we all work in an environment that is both destabilising and at times frightening. With constant expectations around innovation, changing the way we work, and consistently having to evidence value-add, the working environment has never been so uncertain for the in-house community. As a result resilience is increasingly recognised as something which needs to be focussed on. By emphasising connections with others and prioritising our mental and physical health and wellbeing, we can ensure that we are equipped to handle this evolving world in which we practice.

Drumming crewThe ACC Conference emphasised the fact that change is here to stay, but the speakers also reminded us that as lawyers we are well equipped with a toolkit to enable both ourselves and those around us to embrace this exciting ride. Change is the new normal, and while at times it can be challenging, it can be empowering provided we adopt the right attitude.