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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

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 Nadia Mansour, Chief Legal Counsel at HBF Health Ltd and winner of the 'Mentor of the Year' at the 2021 ACC Australia Corporate Lawyer Awards.

Tell us about your current role.

I am the Chief Legal Counsel at HBF Health Ltd. My team provides legal advice and counsel to the HBF Group of companies which includes HBF Dental and private health insurer, CUA Health.

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

Resilience. Being a great in-house lawyer means you need to be capable of evolving and adapting to change. Sometimes the change is internal with management and executives and other times it’s because of market, regulatory or environmental conditions. Having resilience and being able to go with the flow (while managing risk) is, in my opinion, the most important skill for an in-house lawyer.

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

It was by accident to be honest. I started my career at what was then Freehills (now HSF) where I was seconded to a banking client. My secondment was initially meant for a few months but kept being extended and I was ultimately offered a permanent role and asked to stay! I have worked in firms and in-house but I find being in-house more rewarding because I can directly impact and influence the business and see the tangible results of our work on business outcomes.

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

It is really important to form friendships and business relationships with key stakeholders. I know this is obvious but I would highly recommend taking the time to get on the ground and learn the business. Go visit your frontline staff or go on site with the wider workforce, wear a headset in a call centre and listen in on customer calls and get a sense of the pain points, shadow someone in the part of the business that makes money! You should also ask questions about what’s working with the services you are providing and what’s not. It’s all fantastic learning to help you understand the business better and forces you to get feedback on how you’re going. It’s important to do some benchmark surveys to see how you’re tracking internally and to get a sentiment on whether legal is seen as the Business Prevention Unit or as the Best Lawyers in the Universe. 

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

Law school also doesn’t teach you a number of critical things. Firstly, being in-house often means you have to make judgement calls - there’s the law and then there’s the law having regard to risk or other policy or business considerations. Learning how to resolve those conflicts comes with years of experience. Law school also doesn’t teach you the art of negotiation and diplomacy which you will need in spades as an in-house lawyer. As you get further along in your career, these things become second nature and you rely less on your books and research tools and more on your experience and instinct. 

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

The rise of in-house lawyers as normal for most businesses. When I first started, only the biggest of corporations had in-house teams. Nowadays, it’s common place for most medium to large companies to have their own lawyer or internal legal team which goes to show the important role we play in most businesses across the country.

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

A musician or lyricist

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

I have the benefit of reaching out to our legal community and getting some of the best training and learning in the country. I have also made some wonderful friends and it has been a wonderful way of connecting with my peers.