Success As A Company Secretary And In-House Legal Counsel Means Resilience And Flexibility

In-House Legal Counsel Company Secretaries

The importance of being flexible and open-minded in a Company Secretary or In-House Legal Counsel role has never been more important, and events of the last year have crystalised that. That’s the key insight that was shared by Origin Energy company secretary and winner of the Company Secretary of the Year award at the 2020 Women in Law Awards, Helen Hardy, in a wide-ranging interview on Lawyers Weekly.

“There really isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, different companies have different perspectives,” Hardy said in the interview. “So, I’ve always been connected to my counterparts at other companies, both listed and non-listed, and connected to peak bodies, like the Governance Institute and AICD, because without those external perspectives, you can only do so much.

“If you reach out, if you have the network around you and connect with people, your workload can be halved and your resources and thinking will be doubled. One thing that really enhanced this was during the pandemic where you couldn’t have your water cooler conversations with your colleagues. Most of us were isolated at home. Just having that community of extra support to share ideas, share challenges has been absolutely invaluable.”

Businesses across the entire gamut have developed a new-found respect for the Company Secretary and In-House Legal Counsel role over the course of the pandemic. Ensuring lines of communication remained open between the executive leadership and board, maintaining a calm and focused response across the organisation, and ensuring flexibility at a time where the situation could be changing daily were all tasks that fell on the Company Secretary.

At the same time, the Company Secretary and In-House Legal Counsel became the one to co-ordinate the efforts to keep staff safe, and developing solutions to allow the business operations to continue.

There have been a lot of balls in the air for professionals like Hardy to manage, and juggling them has re-emphasised some of the key traits that a great Company Secretary and In-House Legal Counsel should have, such as the ability to be collaborative and positive in approach, regardless of the circumstances. “And, have the courage to advocate for the right things and have the courage to stop the things that you don’t feel are quite right,” Hardy said in the Lawyer’s Weekly interview.“Have the courage to tell the board, ‘No’, and tell management, ‘You need to disclose more to the board’, or ‘You need to report this to the board’. Be the glue between your directors and senior executives,” she said.

While the pandemic response situation in Australia is calming to an extent, the renewed focus on the Company Secretary and In-House Legal Counsel role as a source of decisive, calm action and collaborative flexibility, as highlighted by Hardy’s experience, is here to stay.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About Greenfields

Founded by Managing Director, Catherine Wolfe-Coote, Greenfields is a market leader in Legal, Company Secretary & Corporate Governance appointments. Having a capable, well-established team, we offer bespoke and agile services which do not fall into the traditional ‘agency’ or ‘head hunting’ categories.

We have a diverse portfolio of cross-sector clients including top ASX listed organisations, non-listed organisations, multinationals, small and medium size enterprises, and not-for-profits, making us well positioned to provide expert advice on remuneration, market trends and best practice across Legal, Company Secretary & Corporate Governance.

As a Diversity & Inclusion champion, we take pride in assisting organisations in achieving progressive goals. We strive to deliver balanced shortlists and adhere to robust policies on Diversity & Inclusion; Data Storage & Privacy; Workplace Health & Safety; Modern Slavery; and Environmental & Social Governance.

Known for our market knowledge, technical understanding, deep network and robust processes, Greenfields are regular contributors and sponsorship partners with the Governance Institute of Australia (GIA), the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) and the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD).

Empowering Decision-Making in Legal and Corporate Governance

Empowering Decision-Making in Legal and Corporate Governance

Explore the pivotal role of effective governance and decision-making in driving organisational success. Below we provide key insights from a range of sources into how these elements can enhance strategic decisions and operational efficiency, offering practical...

The directors’ dilemma: skin in the game or independence

The directors’ dilemma: skin in the game or independence

The dilemma of Directors balancing the need to have stake in the company's success, yet also the independence to make unbiased decisions. Read this concise summary of this AFR article which discusses the directors' dilemma and the trends of directors moving forward....

The Evolving Role of Chief Sustainability Officers

The Evolving Role of Chief Sustainability Officers

Learn how the evolving role of Chief Sustainability Officers (CSOs) is shifting shift from a PR-centric role to a more strategic role significant to a company's long term value creation. This post references material from this article from the Harvard Business Review....