Member in the Spotlight allows us to get up-close and personal with some of our ACC Australia members. This week we are shining the spotlight on Amy Salapak, Senior Legal Counsel at Curtin University, a member of the In-house In Health Special Interest Group and a participant in Season 1 of the inaugural ACC podcast series.
Tell us about your current role.
I work within a team of talented lawyers at Curtin University, in the role of Senior Legal Counsel. In this role I am responsible for advising the University on a broad range of matters, with a focus on litigation and disputes, including employment and industrial relations matters, administrative law, governance, and emerging areas of risk. I enjoy the role as it challenges me, provides interesting and diverse work, in a dynamic and values-driven workplace.
What do you believe is the most important skill an in-house lawyer needs?
What led you to pursue an in-house legal role?
I had been working in private practice as a commercial litigator, when an opportunity arose to work as an in-house legal adviser at the WA Department of Health. The role (predominantly) involved providing legal advice to the WA Country Health Service, Australia’s largest country public health provider, in respect of medical treatment liability matters and coronial investigations and inquests. I wasn’t particularly looking to move in-house at that time, but the role, the opportunity to continue working in litigation and disputes, and being involved in interesting, and meaningful work really appealed to me. For all those reasons, the role couldn’t have given me a better grounding and introduction into the working life of an in-house lawyer. And 10 years on, I continue to enjoy being part of the in-house legal profession.
What advice would you offer to in-house counsel in building relationships with their organisations?
Take the time to invest in learning about the organisation, its people, and ‘who’s who in the zoo and what they do.’ Listen to your client(s), be engaged, be authentic, be confident and be ready to bring pragmatic solutions to add value to your organisation.
What is the one thing a law degree doesn’t teach you about being an in-house lawyer?
How an organisation works, and working within the culture of that organisation.
What are the biggest changes you’ve witnessed across the legal sector since you joined the profession?
Undoubtedly, technology has led to significant advances in innovation and improvements in operational efficiencies. However, I think COVID-19 was really the catalyst for demonstrating the real impact technology had on enabling legal teams to work remotely, and legal proceedings to be conducted virtually and remotely. Yet, with the rise in technology we have also seen growth in emerging areas of risk and legal practice such as data, privacy and cybersecurity, AI, energy and climate change, and blockchain.
Finish this sentence… If I wasn’t a lawyer I’d be…
I like being a part of the ACC Australia community because…
I enjoy being part of ACC, as it provides access to an incredible amount of resources, and mentoring opportunities, tailored specifically to the in-house legal profession. It has assisted and supported me to grow my in-house career and network, and has global reach. While in the USA I was able to connect to ACC chapters in New Jersey, Washington D.C. and New York.