FOR the newly elected president of the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) Australia, Karen Grumley, the future of the legal industry is a world of opportunity.
While news surrounding the legal profession often reads 'doom and gloom' with the rise of smart technology and artificial intelligence, Grumley sees these kinds of advancements as opportunities.
Grumley has worked as an in-house lawyer for the past nine years and is committed to ensuring members of the ACC have the tools, services, and connections to transform their businesses in a digital age.
"In-house lawyers are no longer just lawyers," says Grumley.
"Increasingly, our members are becoming an integral part of the senior management team as organisers come to grips with the risks and legal challenges of the 21st century."
"Of course, we need the legal skills, but equally importantly for today's in-house lawyers, they must known and understand the business, be commercially oriented and a respected adviser to the board and senior management team."
The ACC Australia is part of a global network of more than 40,000 in-house counsel employed by over 10,000 organisations in more than 85 countries.
In-house lawyers constitute approximately 30 per cent of the total Australian legal profession, making Grumley's role as the 'voice of in-house lawyers' a vital one.
Business News Australia spoke with Grumley about her election to President, the future of the profession, and the unique struggles faced by in-house lawyers in 2017.
During your tenure, what are you planning on focusing on?
For me I think particularly in the industry I work in a lot of in-house lawyers work in organisations where our businesses are under pressure from new and existing competitors in the market in which we operate.
I want to make sure that in-house lawyers have skills and resources that they need to help them understand how they can reinvent what they do within that business context.
Whether that means making sure that we're early adopters of technology, whether we work more flexibly, whether we work in diverse teams.
I want to make sure that our people understand our members have the ability to access that technology, but also to help educate them and provide resources around how they can best employ those skills.
What do you think are some of the main challenges for in-house lawyers as technology continues to threaten the legal profession as a whole?
I suppose my personal opinion is that technology shouldn't be seen as a threat to our role but as an enabler.
Really, we need to be early adopters where it suits.
The fact that maybe one day there is artificial intelligence that can draft a document means that I actually get the opportunity to focus on the more strategic things which is what makes being an in-house lawyer so exciting.
I do think it's there but I don't think it's something that we should be scared of, I think it's something we should use to our benefit.
I understand you want to help in-house lawyers get on top of their mental health? How are you going to work in that space?
I'd like to try and start conversations with our members about how we can address some of those issues in practical pragmatic ways.
I'd like to take some of that which is out there and readily available and continue to engage with members and make sure they know that those resources exist.
Wellbeing and mental health are really critical issues. We've got resources as an organisation to help our members so it's something we should look at.
You say 'in-house lawyers are no longer just lawyers', so why is that transformation occurring now and what does it mean for the role as an in-house lawyer in the future?
We probably need to think more about business solutions and not just legal solutions when we're doing our job.
Today, in-house legal teams manage so much more work in-house and generally the really highly strategic and quite business critical work that we do.
We have an ever-expanding influence throughout our organisations. It's appearing that more and more organisations are realising that those skills of their in-house team are compatible with other roles in the organisation.
Our roles are more than just legal and the fact that we're able to think about business solutions and not just legal solutions make us a more valuable voice at the executive table.
Business News Australia
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