Collegiality was the keyword for in-house lawyers who gathered for breakfast in Brisbane yesterday.
Senior Legal Counsel at global technology firm Megaport, Mel Scott, told the Queensland Law Society (QLS)/Law Staff In-house Lawyers Breakfast at Customs House that peer support was important for in-house lawyers.
“The people in this room are the people you can speak to about what’s going on – we can’t speak with our colleagues, they’re our clients, (and) we have to maintain those professional boundaries,” Mel said.
“Your in-house community, your peers, the people here at the table, are fundamental to your success and your sanity.”
Mel quoted wartime US President Franklin D Roosevelt when describing the challenges she had faced during more than a decade as in-house counsel: “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor”.
The QLS 2023 In-house Counsel of the Year said her podcast, Counsel, created during COVID-19, was an opportunity to share lessons she learned from navigating turbulent times.
“I believe that when we share our experiences and stories openly, the next generation of legal professionals will feel supported, more aware of their career opportunities and that they are not alone in working towards finding their own place in law,” she said.
“Working in-house can be lonely as you are often bound by confidential professional boundaries from becoming super friendly with your colleagues.”
Event MC Phil Ware, who chairs both the QLS In-house Counsel Committee and the QLS Wellbeing Working Group, agreed.
“You can have peers below you, you can have peers beside you, you can have peers above you – everyone has a story to tell, everyone can support and be supported,” Phil said.
He said in-house lawyers were bearing the brunt of the fallout from recent events such as the Lawyer X scandal, royal commissions into banking and Robodebt, and revelations about PricewaterhouseCoopers.
“In the background of lots of those stories, there are general counsel who resign or get shot, whichever comes first,” Phil said.
“These are challenging times but I think it’s all worthwhile.”
Queensland Law Society (QLS) In-house Lawyers Breakfast Series provides an opportunity for members of this area of practice to gain knowledge and insights from peers and experts; and expand their professional network. Events were also held in March and June.