MOVING IN-HOUSE

MOVING IN-HOUSE

JAMES Barritt guided Australian coffee franchise Zarraffa’s Coffee in an advisory legal capacity for five years through Gold IP Lawyers, before moving in-house in May 2012.

Specialising in corporate and commercial and intellectual property law, Barritt had a background in franchise-related issues and had worked previously with a number of large franchisors and business owners.

Since his appointment as in-house legal advisor to Zarraffa’s Coffee, Barritt has steered the company’s purchase of Perth-based coffee chain, One for the Road, the largest acquisition for the company to date, and been appointed the company’s third executive director.

How does working as an in-house counsel differ from working for a firm?


How has the role challenged you?


The other is remembering you don’t have to be as adversarial. There is no hiding behind a third-party client so you need to change the mindset and bring it back to how this matter can be resolved without defaulting to the adversarial context. And I’ll admit it took a bit to break the habit.

What is involved in your role day-to-day?

Given the duality of roles within the business, a day is never a ‘normal’ day compared to private practice where the clients, files, meetings and workload could be for the most part predicted.

You moved quite quickly through the ranks to become a board member. What do you think has made you such a good fit for the organisation?

It is true that in some situations commercial sensibilities must trump legal positions, so being able to set aside a rigid legal position when required has been a plus. I would also say that being willing to take the lead and stand up for the decisions made and be accountable for those has helped.
My legal background has provided me with great structure and discipline with regard to processes and systems, which in a franchise system is a natural fit.

How do franchises such as Zarraffa’s Coffee benefit from having an in-house counsel?

Business evolves quickly and we can adapt and change to meet market conditions in a more nimble fashion. Additionally, we can have documentation that suits our system and is not a ‘best guess’ based on instructions – this is because working in-house you can identify the commercial areas that aren’t covered from a legal perspective.

What would you say to those considering moving into an in-house counsel role?

In my experience, I have found that working in-house requires a commercial mindset just as much, if not more, than looking at just the legal side of things. Therefore you have to love the commercial aspect just as much.


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