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 Helen Fraser, General Counsel at MNF Group Ltd, a committee member of ACC Australia and a finalist of the 2020 Mentor of the Year Award.
Tell us about your current role.
As General Counsel at MNF Group Ltd, I head up the Legal and Compliance team and am a member of the Executive Team. I’m also the Exec sponsor for our recently formed Diversity & Inclusion Committee. MNF Group Limited (ASX: MNF) is one of Asia-Pacific’s fastest growing technology companies, with our people located across Asia-Pacific, Europe and North America. MNF develops and operates a global communications network and software suite enabling some of the world’s leading innovators to deliver new-generation communications solutions.
What do you believe is the most important skill an in-house lawyer needs?
Problem solving. A good in-house lawyer is always looking at how to enable the business to achieve its objectives and how to take the legal worry out of their work so the business can get on with the job of building the business.
What led you to pursue an in-house legal role?
I prefer working in-house because I enjoy business. I like to see what triggers the requirement for my work and how my work helps achieve desired business outcomes. I can see how my work is one part of the wider business objective. There’s great variety of work so it’s never boring! I also really enjoy the chance to influence and improve the way the business operates and to help the business grow. I love to work in cross-functional teams where a range of disciplines and a range of knowledge and skills are valued.
What advice would you offer to in-house counsel in building relationships with their organisations
Develop a deep understanding of the business and what it’s trying to achieve. Show a genuine interest in the business. Spend time with your colleagues, understand their challenges, what success looks like to them and how you can help them achieve it. Communicate in the way your colleagues are most comfortable – in language style (eg short, simple, plain business language) and method of communication (eg emails, teams messages, SMS).
What is the one thing a law degree doesn’t teach you about being an in-house lawyer?
I’ll sneak in two things here. Firstly, typically people don’t seek our advice because they love the law or are fascinated by it, but because they want you to help them solve a problem or achieve a business outcome and you need to tailor your approach and communications accordingly. Secondly, emotional intelligence, leadership and soft skills and all round management skills are as important as technical legal skills.
What are the biggest changes you’ve witnessed across the legal sector since you joined the profession?
These days there are great career opportunities for inhouse lawyers because they are as well respected and valued as law firm lawyers. Also, clients no longer feel they have to seek legal advice as much as they once did – clients are more ready to take a cost benefit approach to engaging lawyers. This means lawyers must earn the trust and respect of their clients by demonstrating their value to the client, otherwise a business will not engage with them.
Finish this sentence… If I wasn’t a lawyer I’d be…
A scientist because I think they’re so important to understanding the natural world around us and what we urgently need to do to secure the future of the planet.
I like being a part of the ACC Australia community because …
Inhouse lawyers often work in solo or relatively isolated situations and ACC provides them with a professional community of peers and really effective development and networking opportunities and resources, tailored for the inhouse audience.