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The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) is the world's largest organization serving the professional and business interests of attorneys who practice in the legal departments of corporations, associations, nonprofits and other private-sector organizations around the globe.

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Congratulations once again to this year’s winners of the ACC Australia Corporate Lawyer Awards 2019.

Announced at the 25th ACC In-House Legal National Conference, the winners represent the peak of their profession, in awards that are by in-house counsel, for in-house counsel. A panel of 15 judges reviewed over 100 nominations, using a rigorous judging process that incorporates a point scoring system and a conversation between the judges on the more subjective criteria.

“In-house lawyers are increasingly under pressure as budgets are being tightened and they are required to do more work with less resources,” ACC Australia President Justin Coss said.

“Those lawyers amongst us who manage to wheel out incredible projects with significant workloads that make an impact for the organisation and for their teams, need to be recognised, because it sets a great example for the rest of the profession to emulate, and recognises outstanding work. And outstanding talent should be recognised.”

Corporate Lawyer of the Year: Amy Spira

Senior Legal Counsel, Domain Group

For Amy Spira, the past 12 months have been particularly busy, having overseen seven acquisitions for the Domain Group including that of Commercial View, an online commercial real estate portal. Throughout this complex, multi-party acquisition, Amy was responsible for end-to-end negotiations and demonstrated considerable legal and law-related management skills.

Additionally, to help move her legal team towards high-risk, high-value work, Amy enhanced legal processes by introducing checklists, cheat sheets, precedents and practice notes for the business. She has also done considerable work to help the business understand the value of involving legal advisors early in product ideation.

Government Lawyer of the Year: Tracey Moore

Executive Leader, Legal and Risk Services, General Counsel and Board Secretary, Queensland Urban Utilities.

Tracey has been recognised for her work as an innovative leader, contributing not only to a variety of transformation projects but helping to shape Queensland Urban Utilities’ (QUU) strategy, brand and service delivery models. Tracey understands how important it is for a legal department to work in partnership with the business, and has provided practical advice to help the company achieve its strategic and operational objectives while minimising risk.

At a time when many general counsel are struggling to find work/life balance, Tracey has purposely created an environment that supports flexible hours, part-time work and working from home for her legal team.

Young Lawyer Achiever of the Year: Kelly Xiao

Senior Associate Corporate Counsel VMWare

When accepting her award, Kelly acknowledged that her grandmother in a ‘small’ Chinese town of 1 million would never have imagined that her granddaughter would be a lawyer in Australia, let alone the winner of the Young Lawyer Achiever of 2019.

That she is often the youngest person in the room is a reflection of the capability that Kelly has demonstrated to her colleagues. She is known at both VMware and amongst her clients as someone who leads with passion and integrity and shows courage in the way she handles all situations.

As VMware’s lead employment lawyer for the Asia Pacific region, Kelly provides advice to the HR department and managers across 15 countries in both English and Mandarin. In the past year, she was co-lead lawyer in opening an Indonesian office, a task made more complex due to the lack of automatic transfer provisions under Indonesian law.

Large Legal Team of the Year: DXC Technology

When businesses transform, legal departments are often not part of the transformation equation. But that is not the case with the Australia DXC Technology legal team, which has embraced an innovative approach to deliver measurable value to the business, including an award-winning contracting system.

Using a range of technology tools, the team assesses, assigns, supports and tracks its work supporting the business, including measuring utilisation. The team also participates in DXC’s social impact initiatives such as the DXC Dandelion Program, which helps people on the autism spectrum build skills and careers. The close-knit, inclusive team thrives on change and is proud of their progress and plans.

“DXC’s mission is digital transformation. We have put our team through an amazing amount and they have stuck with us, they have worked it, lived through it and put up with it,” said DXC’s Emma Johnston who, together with Nick Boymal, is joint DXC Technology leader. “For all that we talk about technology and processes, teams are about people, and we have the most fantastic team of people.”

Small Legal Team of the Year: Pacific National

Seen as a true business partner, the Pacific National legal team guides the business through risks to help the company deliver on its aspirations for asset efficiency and innovative rollingstock and train service designs.

To help the business become self-sufficient in delivering on their own outcomes, the legal team created tools for managing simple, standard and repeatable high volume tasks. They have developed over 80 new template documents for the business - including forms, employment contracts, commercial contracts and process guides. In addition, they run training sessions on employment law, whistleblower legislation, industrial relations, contract law, competition law, WHSE obligations and rail safety.

Excellence in Corporate Social Responsibility: Pernod Ricard Winemakers

This team does not just ‘talk the talk, they truly ‘walk the walk. They own and champion a CSR program that goes above and beyond supporting the UN’s sustainable development goals. Their program features four pillars that address all aspects of the organisation’s products life cycle from grape to grass, including:

  1. Nurturing Terroir;
  2. Valuing People;
  3. Circular Making; and
  4. Responsible Hosting.

The breadth of social responsibility initiatives the team has introduced is large; from establishing a ‘bottle bank’ in the staff carpark for recycling bottles, to organising donations for at risk and/or homeless women and working with suppliers to reduce landfill are just a few.

“Every time you have a Jacob’s Creek glass of wine it has been sourced and packaged sustainably marketed and sold responsibly, and the team here are responsible for all of that,” said Pernod Ricard’s Helen Strachan.

Mentor of the Year: Justin Moses

In-House Lawyer, Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience

In the four years that Justin has been part of the Future Leaders Mentoring Program, he has exceeded all expectations in terms of his commitment, dedication, and generosity of time.

“Mentoring relationships are characterised by mutual respect and trust and generosity of spirit and a willingness to learn from someone else,” Justin said

Described by his mentee described him as “the voice of reason and steady guiding hand’, Justin encouraged his mentee to stretch themselves beyond legal opportunities by participating broadly in corporate life; from signing up to committees of interest, to chasing non-legal secondment opportunities.

Justin consistently and patiently actively listened, sought more information, challenged his mentee’s world view and provided alternative ways of thinking. He also leveraged his experience and connections gained over his career in order to benefit his mentee.

Mentee of the Year: Shanti Das

In-House Lawyer, Affinity Education Group

When Shanti joined the Future Leaders Mentorship Program, one of the first questions she asked her mentor was what she could do as mentee to ensure that they, too, had a worthwhile experience. Eager to learn and to challenge her own ideals and perceptions, Shanti came prepared to each meeting with an abundance of ideas about what she wanted to gain from the program.

Shanti’s achievements this year are a tribute to her willingness to take action and constantly step up to challenges that were set throughout the mentoring program. She did so with a high level of enthusiasm, a touch of humility, and a truckload of gratitude.

“This program has really helped me to push myself above and beyond what I could have done on my own,” Shanti said.

Laini Bennett is Head of Content at LegalVision. She is responsible for LegalVision’s freely available database of articles and publications. LegalVision is a market disruptor in the commercial legal services industry and provides a range of legal solutions specifically directed at large corporates, fast-growing businesses and enterprise clients that have a higher volume of legal needs. The firm was recently named the 'Fastest Growing Law Firm in the Asia-Pacific' by the Financial Times.


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