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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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Stephen Chang

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 Stephen Chang, Senior Legal and Commercial Manager at Datacom, a committee member of ACC Australia and the founding Chair of ACC Australia’s Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) Committee.

Tell us about your current role.

I am a senior lawyer at Datacom, a multinational technology company providing technology outsourcing, cloud, data centre, software development and IT management services.  If you haven’t heard of it, then you are not alone given that the AFR wrote that it is ‘The $1b tech company you've never heard of’.

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

A good in-house lawyer needs to have a curious mind and be able to look beyond the client’s instructions to understand the business and commercial drivers in order to provide a commercially focused solution to the underlying issue, which a lot of times are not legal.  One also needs to be able to be adaptable in response to a dynamic and continuously changing business environment.

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

While in private practice, I undertook a number of secondments in-house where I was able to gain valuable experience and insight into the life of an in-house lawyer.

I enjoyed being close to the business and seeing how my advice on legal and commercial issues influenced how the business operated which led me to make the transition to in-house. Plus there is a greater variety of work which makes it more interesting!

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

Management structures, business units and corresponding governance processes in a large organisation are more complex than in firms, particularly when they are also split at a regional, national and global level. My advice would be to invest time early on to learn about the complex inner workings of the businesses, including understanding the roles of the numerous stakeholders and approvers, and talk to people face to face as much as you can. 

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

I would say the soft skills of being more than a brilliant technical lawyer. You need to be so much more in-house, such as being a problem solver, leader, strategist, and manager of legal projects and commercial risk.

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

The disruption to the business of law is very evident.  For in-house lawyers in particular, there is a greater focus on inner efficiencies and delivering value resulting in more responsibility and an increased work for in-house counsel.

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

A computer engineer – which I actually was prior to being a lawyer!

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

It is a great community of in-house lawyers with whom I can share similar experiences and challenges.  It also offers great CPD, opportunities for networking as well as the always-fun social events (which I hope can go ahead soon).  

What is your involvement with ACC Australia?

I am a member of the ACC Australia’s NSW Division, Executive Committee. I am also the founding Chair of ACC Australia’s Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DEI) Committee.

The DEI Committee was established this year, with the purpose to promote the values of diversity, equality and inclusion in the Australian in-house legal community and throughout the members’ businesses. 

We already have the Diversity and Inclusion Charter that organisations can sign up to, and there are fantastic DEI sessions at ACC Australia’s 2020 Virtual Conference. We are also planning more initiatives to raise awareness of the benefits of diversity, equality and inclusion and to improve opportunities at all levels for people in the in-house legal community regardless of their background or circumstances, including a new scholarship for aspiring in-house lawyers or law students.

Check out the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Committee pages on the ACC Australia website!

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