Tracey MooreWorking in an executive role in a large organisation is not for the faint-hearted. As General Counsel and Board Secretary for Queensland Urban Utilities’ (QUU), Tracey Moore can attest to that. With a career spanning three decades, she has learned how to say ‘no’ in a way that will be respected, build trust, retain her moral compass – and sense of humour – all the while juggling multiple responsibilities within the business.

Recognised for her work as an innovative leader, Moore was awarded Government Lawyer of the Year at the 25th ACC In-House Legal National Conference. In this article, she shares the lessons she has learned as general counsel.

Keeping Female Lawyers in the Workforce

Long before working from home became mandatory thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Moore was integrating working from home into her team’s routine. Too often, she had seen women leave the legal profession due to a lack of flexibility around their hours and place of work.

“When I started work a couple of decades ago, there were more female graduates than male. But since then, the attrition rate of women leaving the profession has been significant,” she observed.

Moore believes an unwillingness to offer part-time, flexible hours or the option of working from home has contributed to this. Which is why she implemented flexible working policies and accommodated four team members’ pregnancies – in some cases multiple pregnancies – since joining QUU.

“We offer men the same flexibility as well,” she said. For one male member of the team, work-life balance is very important. He is granted three to four months off to travel every couple of years. 

Such opportunities are weighed up against the contribution each team member makes to the business. But generally, offering flexibility means keeping great people on the team, which also benefits the company.

Should GCs Have an Expanded Role?

There’s some debate in the in-house legal fraternity as to whether GCs should only give legal advice, or if they should take on expanded responsibilities within the business.

Moore believes there’s no right or wrong answer. “Both models work depending on the organisation, the person and the situation.”

In Moore’s case, her role has significantly expanded since joining QUU almost a decade ago. She is now responsible for policy, land access and tenure, right to information and information privacy, risk, business resilience and continuity, emergency management, insurance and industrial relations.

An expanded role can mean being prepared to step up when the circumstances require it. When the pandemic started, Moore was asked by the CEO to lead the business’ emergency management team. She spent several weeks working with an interdisciplinary group to oversee workforce distribution and safety, including working remotely, supply chain, and operations.

The Benefits of a Multidisciplinary Approach

Moore feels fortunate to have been asked to lead that response and believes everyone benefits when different disciplines work together. She sees this daily in her team, especially having the legal, insurance and risk teams seated together.

“One of the advantages of having a multidisciplinary team is that they play off each other,” Moore said. “To be a good lawyer, you have to understand risk and the risk appetite of the organisation. Having them sit side by side really helps with knowledge transfer.” 

It also helps the legal team to better understand the pressures the business is facing, so they can provide advice within that context. Moore firmly believes that in-house lawyers need to be accessible, and able to relate to the challenges the board and their colleagues are experiencing. 

“You need to assess risk from a multidisciplinary perspective. There may be several options, one significantly riskier than the other, but the trade-off may be that it has a great commercial outcome for the business,” Moore said.

Sage Advice is Not Always Popular

That said, Moore also believes that in-house lawyers need to be prepared to make decisions and dole out advice that will not always be well received. “You need to be strong-willed and honest, as your advice may not always be popular,” she said.

Moore recommends delivering the message tactfully. “Try to deliver the message in a way that makes sense to people, by explaining the pros and cons of each risk. Try not to say ‘no’ without offering alternatives.”

Strong communication skills are just one of the key skills Moore believes in-house lawyers need to bring to the table. In addition, she suggests:

  • Resilience. “Modern business is a tough arena. You’ve got to roll with the punches,” Moore said.
  • Trustworthiness. “You need to be totally honest and ethical. Unless people can trust you and your moral compass, they won’t come to you.”
  • Hard-working. But don’t be afraid to delegate. “You can’t do it all yourself.”
  • Have a sense of humour. “Having a sense of humour and being approachable gets you a long way in the organisation,” Moore said.

Building Strong Relationships With the Business

In addition to being accessible, Moore identifies four other ways in-house legal teams can build relationships with the business.

  1. Understand the business’ strategy and ensure it is reflected in your legal team’s business plan
  2. Build subject-matter expertise by spending time with relevant business departments. Attend their team meetings and invite them to your group’s meetings
  3. Run legal drop-in meetings regularly. Moore’s team holds three a week at times that are publicised on the company intranet. “People just rock up. One lawyer takes a coordinating role and directs them to the relevant lawyer. It saves us all time and we can triage problems that could evolve into full-blown matters,” Moore said.
  4. Develop an extensive self-service legal knowledge centre, written in plain English, in layman’s terms. “It avoids having people trouble the team with minor questions,” Moore said and provides a non-threatening environment to ask basic queries.

Tracey Moore’s 3 Key Lessons Learned

With so much experience, Moore is a font of knowledge and advice. “I just wish I knew what I know now, twenty years ago,” Moore laments lightheartedly. But she narrows down the three key lessons she has learned throughout her career as follows:

  1. Never move away from your own ethical and moral values
  2. Don’t expect to become a trusted advisor overnight. You have to work hard to develop trust
  3. Be accessible and adaptable. 

If you have any questions about how LegalVision can assist your in-house legal team, contact our legal transformation team on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

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