“Good luck and YouTube won’t help you,” is the tongue-in-cheek advice offered by one of Australia’s leading General Counsel, Nigel Lowry of Ausgrid, when asked about tips for those looking to transform their legal function.
In all seriousness, Lowry is one of the best placed General Counsel to offer advice on transformation having successfully transformed Ausgrid’s legal function following private equity investment into the former government owned entity.
Importantly, it has been this transformation and leadership over the past three years that has prepared them for the challenges of the past year which have included bushfires, storms, the pandemic, economic recession, and a Royal Commission.
“I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to bring in quite a few new people as part of that transformation and along with those new people we were able to develop some new ways of working, firstly with each other and then with the rest of the organisation,” said Nigel.
“We set up some really strong relationships both within the team and with key stakeholders in the organisation, and I think the quality of those relationships, and the fact that we’ve brought in new people with a new approach has really helped set us up as well as we could possibly hope to deal with the challenges of the last six months.”
Drawing on his experiences, Nigel distils the successful transformation into four key steps which other in-house legal leaders can apply to their own teams and leadership style.
“The first [step] is to really make sure you understand the business, and of course, if you’ve been in the role for a long time, that should be something which comes as second nature. But if you’re new to a role, understanding how the business makes money, understanding its purpose, its objectives, its risks, its blind spots, its opportunities, is really important.”
“The second aspect of transforming the legal function is understanding the team really well.”
“Do they do the job they need to do? And the other question that you need to ask yourself is, can they? And not everybody will necessarily be able to do what you ask of them and it may be that you need to make some changes so that you can help support the business in the way they need to be supported.”
“Once you have tackled those first two, and it sounds much easier than it actually is, you need to decide how you are going to make changes. You need to then set your course and then you need to get going and start making some changes.”
Nigel emphasises the importance of getting buy-in from the rest of the business, including key stakeholders, internal clients, and potentially external stakeholders.
“I found that taking people along for the journey or letting them know what was happening before you started things really helped people understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and importantly, how it was going to help them,” said Nigel.
To hear Nigel’s insights into how the pandemic has and will continue to affect the legal industry and legal service provider relationships check out Lawcadia’s Fireside Chat with Nigel Lowry.
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