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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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Kate Sherburn

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 Kate Sherburn, In-house Counsel at Who Gives a Crap, winner of the 'New to In-house Lawyer of the Year' at the 2020 ACC Australia Corporate Lawyer Awards and a participant in Season 1 of the inaugural ACC podcast series.

Tell us about your current role.

I’m the Legal Beagle (aka legal counsel) at Who Gives A Crap. We sell toilet paper (among other things), but we donate 50% of our profits to organisations that work to provide proper sanitation to people in need. As the sole lawyer here, pretty much everything (and anything!) comes across my desk so it’s a very interesting and dynamic role. 

What do you believe is the most important skill an in-house lawyer needs? 

It’s hard to pinpoint just one. In house lawyers need to be organised, self-driven and be comfortable juggling! But I think what is the most important is understanding the needs of your business and making sure that any advice you give is practical, understandable and relevant.

What led you to pursue an in-house legal role?

I took a year off while I was at uni to work as a paralegal at Cadbury Schweppes for 12 months in a program they ran for law students. I loved being involved in a business like that, and knew that I’d end up back in house once I had enough experience. 

What advice would you offer to in-house counsel in building relationships with their organisations

Listen to what the business is saying and make sure that you’re always approachable. Showing that you can be a partner who works with the business to help them achieve their goals is the best way to build trusted relationships. 

What is the one thing a law degree doesn’t teach you about being an in-house lawyer?

I think the main thing is how to actually provide advice to your client. Uni teaches you the law, but not the commercial aspect that is such a big consideration when working in-house. The advice you provide not only has to be relevant to the business (which sometimes means assessing the risk rather than providing the “right” legal answer), but it also has to be presented in a way that your client can utilise it. 

What are the biggest changes you’ve witnessed across the legal sector since you joined the profession?

There have been so many changes, but the biggest is definitely how we use technology. When I first started, technology was clunky and we had to try and make it work in a way that it wasn’t designed for. Now we can have multiple people working on the same document at the same time and agreements can get signed electronically. We have legal operations platforms that provide metrics, help triage matters and can automate tasks. And we can work 100% virtually and have the technology to support that. 

Finish this sentence… If I wasn’t a lawyer I’d be…

The owner of a craft shop. Problem is, I'd probably never sell anything, spending my days working on my own projects!

I like being a part of the ACC Australia community because…

I get to meet such wonderful, supportive and friendly people. As a one person legal team, being part of the ACC community means that I have the support of my peers, even when they don’t work for the same company. I’ve learnt so much through the people I’ve met through ACC and I can’t wait for in-person events again! 

Kate Sherburn will feature on Season 1 of In-house Insiders, ACC’s exciting new podcast series. Launching April 14th.