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 Cate Bennett, General Counsel and Company Secretary at Movember, and the winner of the 'Not For Profit Lawyer of the Year' at the 2020 ACC Australia Corporate Lawyer Awards.
Tell us about your current role.
I’m the General Counsel and Company Secretary for Movember, the leading global charity changing the face of men’s health. I look after Movember’s global legal function, including risk management and compliance requirements. I’m also Movember’s global privacy and data protection officer; and as the key governance specialist within our organisation, I manage the business of our consolidated Board (covering seven legal entities across six different jurisdictions).
The best part of my job is working with a brilliant team of in-house counsel, alongside external legal partners in Australia, the UK, Europe, Canada, and North America.
What do you believe is the most important skill an in-house lawyer needs?
Smart communication. Being able to cover complex issues with simplicity and in well though-out formats is the single most important part of my job. “What is the purpose of this [email/contract/policy/slide deck] I’m drafting?” and “Will the person who reads it find it helpful?” are the two most common questions I ask myself day to day.
What led you to pursue an in-house legal role?
So far, I’ve spent my entire career in-house; I didn’t necessarily plan that, and while it’s not for everyone, working in-house suits my style. No day ever looks the same, and there’s an element of unpredictability that keeps things exciting. Being able to see an issue or problem through from start to finish is really satisfying, and not something I feel I’d necessarily get to do in private practice.
What advice would you offer to in-house counsel in building relationships with their organisations
Invest time and effort in understanding who your organisation is, what it stands for (and doesn’t) and how it works. Hang out with colleagues and get involved with everything and anything you can...legal or otherwise. As in-house counsel, we’re often asked to help problem solve – the solutions you come up with have to be right in the context of your organisation and it takes time and effort to build that knowledge properly.
What is the one thing a law degree doesn’t teach you about being an in-house lawyer?
The world doesn’t usually operate within a vacuum of carefully constructed hypotheticals and existing precedent. A lot of time there isn’t a ‘definitely right’ and ‘definitely wrong’ answer to a question. Finding the best way through a question or issue for your organisation requires you to know the law, but also understand its strategy and risk appetite in really practical terms.
What are the biggest changes you’ve witnessed across the legal sector since you joined the profession?
I think the demand that the work we do is user-focused is stronger than ever. It’s no longer acceptable to insist that business processes or activities are buried in paperwork because that’s the way it’s always been done; and high performing organisations don’t prepare and publish things like website terms and conditions or services agreements in long, dense, and complex forms…so we can’t keep creating them. We have to put effort and thought into not just what we do as lawyers, but how we do it. (Which I think is a really good thing).
Finish this sentence… If I wasn’t a lawyer I’d be…
I like being a part of the ACC Australia community because…
There’s such a useful pool of resources and tools available through the ACC. I’m sure I’m not alone in regularly coming across questions and legal issues that are new to me – knowing where to start looking for answers is really empowering.