Many in the past may not have predicted that being a Government lawyer in Australia in 2022 could be considered an exciting and fulfilling career choice. Yet, as Government legal teams win awards and are recognised for leading transformation and digital initiatives, they are actively showcasing the meaningful work and valuable services they provide to the community.
The role of Government lawyers can include advice that informs legislation and policy development, mitigating risk, and resolving legal issues that affect their communities, organisation, services, and agencies. Whether it be Local, State, or Federal Government departments, agencies, regulators or Government owned corporations and statutory authorities, Government lawyers provide critical legal advice and perform essential duties.
Named the “unsung heroes” of the pandemic, government lawyers have been guiding their organisations through unprecedented change, economic recovery, and life-saving public health initiatives. Since the onset of the pandemic, at all levels of Government, legal teams have been navigating remote work, lockdowns and increased workloads as they supported their organisations through this extraordinary time.
In a recent interview with Lawyers Weekly, a senior Government lawyer said, “One of the really nice things about government practice is that because you’re always helping deliver something to the community, I personally find it really rewarding.
And I think that if you’re a younger lawyer coming up, if you want something where you can really see that bigger picture that you’re talking about and have an impact in the world, it can be a really rewarding space in which to work.”
Government related legal work can and has been somewhat reactive over the past few years, not just with the pandemic but also with other serious natural disasters, economic uncertainty, and the recent energy crisis, to name a few. However, there is an opportunity for Government legal teams to identify proactive and strategic projects that can positively and constructively impact their function, such as improving the service provided or reducing waste and inefficiencies. Legal departments can be encouraged to keep an eye on technology and innovation in the marketplace and to understand the benefits that these can deliver. Further, where possible legal teams can seek to carve out some resources that can be allocated to a focus on improving legal operations. This doesn’t have to be a new role, it could be part of an existing team member’s remit and could focus on understanding processes, systems, and technology so as to identify opportunities to continuously improve service delivery.
High profile General Counsel Charles Cho recently spoke with Lawyers Weekly’s Jerome Doraisamy and reflected on his philosophy and success within the public sector as leader of the award-winning legal team at NSW Treasury. According to Mr Cho, his strategy has been to work very closely with their internal clients: “It’s about working closely with the business and actually demonstrating value.”
He acknowledged that demonstrating value can be challenging, but it is important that the client can see what the legal team has been doing, that what they are doing is valuable, and to see how they’ve been supporting their team.
“I help my team by getting funding from the business in order to ensure that we have the appropriate resources to support them,” said Mr Cho.
There is no doubt that the past two and a half years have permanently changed the role of Government lawyers and how they work. The introduction of new technologies and the rise of virtual meetings and e-signatures are certainly here to stay, but so too is the pace at which Government organisations move and need to make decisions. Government lawyers need to respond to the changing service needs of their internal clients as they continue to serve their communities through their important work.
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