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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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Member in the Spotlight: Karen Lee

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 Karen Lee, Associate Director, Legal & Business Conduct at Gilead Sciences and an active member of the Legal Technology and Innovation, and the Pro-bono Special Interest Groups.

Tell us about your current role.
I have recently started in the role of Associate Director of Legal and Business Conduct at Gilead Sciences.

I like being a part of the ACC Australia community because …
I have been able to pursue my passions and interest in legal technology, pro bono and health and wellbeing. It has been great to connect with other in-house lawyers from all around Australia. Being able to build these strong bonds has been so great particularly during this period of change in the way we work and interact with others. ‘Networking’ has never come naturally to me, but I really feel that ACC has helped me build some very meaningful (and I think lifelong) friendships in a real and genuine way. 

How did you get started with ACC Australia?
I joined ACC Australia’s Future Leaders Mentoring Program as a mentee. After several years acting as a mentor for Law Society and university programs, I felt that I needed a mentor at that particular stage of my career when I first took on a sole legal counsel role with responsibility for Australia and New Zealand in a new industry that I didn’t have experience in. I think it is so valuable to switch as a mentor and mentee throughout your career as the takeaways and learnings from each experience are so different. It was also important for me to make that time and create space to reflect and discuss thoughts with someone with fresh eyes.

How can someone get involved with ACC Australia?
ACC Australia is like a 'choose your own' adventure book. I really feel that it is a place where you can find your tribe. As lawyers, I think often we tend to prioritise work and forget about other things that might be important like connection and self-care. It is so easy to join the ACC Legal Technology and Innovation community where you can pop into 30 minute virtual Geekouts, facilitated by in-house lawyers, and have a chat with fun, funny and welcoming lawyers who love legal tech and who want to find ways to improve our teams' or our business partners’ lives, or come to one of the community volunteering events organised by the ACC Pro Bono Committee and cook together with other in-house lawyers. It would be great if more lawyers could experience the supportive and wonderful communities that I have been so pleasantly surprised by, and continue to be surprised by. So many in-house lawyers, particular senior practitioners, are so willing to go out of their way to help and support other lawyers. I have experienced this first-hand and hope to be able to give back and help where I can. 

What are the top skills that are required for the in-house counsel of the future?
I think that beyond technical legal expertise, what is important is a much broader skillset including technological acumen, project management and emotional intelligence. It is never too late to start in legal technology. We don’t need to be IT experts – we just need to understand how we can best harness the technology to help us improve workflows, yield greater insights into our data, and free up our time so that we can focus on higher value, more strategic matters. There are so many videos out there and readily available that it can be overwhelming and difficult to get started. My tip would be to surround yourself with people who are passionate about legal tech and legal ops and don’t be scared to take the first step, ask questions and just give it a go. I think you would be surprised at what you can achieve with even basic skills and your own creativity. 

What are your top tips for health and wellbeing for in-house counsel?
Pause and appreciate the small things in life. I tried Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing nature therapy) recently for the first time, and now I’m finding myself slowing down when I’m walking and appreciating things I haven’t noticed before, like how beautiful weeds can be.

Finish this sentence... If I wasn’t a lawyer I’d be…
Working for a social enterprise or an NGO in the disability sector.


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