Spotlight on ILANZ
In-house lawyers represent 28% of the profession. Who are they and what are the unique aspects of this sector? Check-in on the ILANZ 2023 conference and the importance of coming together.
The recent ILANZ Conference 2023 brought together around 400 in-house lawyers from all over New Zealand and turned the spotlight to this sector of the profession.
The conference, held at Mercury Baypark in Tauranga, is the largest gathering of in-house lawyers in New Zealand who came together with the conference kaupapa being, ‘Kia maia. Kia tū ngātahi – Stand Tall Together’.
With a stellar lineup of speakers, panel presentations and break-out sessions for many, the standout opportunity was the networking and collegiality amongst peers to share common challenges and issues that are often unique to the in-house sector.
In addition to underpinning the hallmark event on the ILANZ calendar is a schedule of regional events held throughout the year to connect local in-house lawyers and provide support for areas of practice.
In-house lawyers section manager Bev Armstrong said feedback from the conference was great. While it was difficult to pick one top item, the feedback around the opportunity to connect, engage and learn from peers and experts received the most consistent mentions.
Bev explains that many in-house lawyers work solo or in very small teams, so the collegiality and legal support afforded to larger teams in law firms are often absent from the in-house lawyers’ daily work environment. This makes the work of ILANZ so important to this sector of the profession by having a section dedicated to the unique needs and requirements of the in-house lawyer.
The important work done by in-house lawyers for organisations around Aotearoa New Zealand also has many upsides. Lynda Frew, ILANZ committee member and Legal Counsel (Commercial Lead) for Bay of Plenty Regional Council enjoys in-house practice for its closeness to the client and decision-making, and allowing a broader skillset to be employed. “Being part of the whole project, not just the legal part of it”, is a key feature of this, as well as being a part of a multi-faceted organisation with a wide range of training and professional development opportunities that are not solely “lawyer-focused”. There is also an organisation-wide benefit of colleagues seeking internal advice a lot quicker, which is often reflected in the resolution outcomes.
This is reflected across the team at Bay of Plenty Regional Council comprising seven lawyers with a mix of full and part-time engagement, all mid-career. In addition to the lawyers there is a commercial team of non-lawyers assisting with supplier contracting.
Likewise, the team considers their arrangements with external firms hugely important, focusing on creating “seamless partnerships to enable key strategic calls to be made with external counsel”.
Lynda counts the regional networking opportunities ILANZ offers as an excellent way of connecting with the in-house legal community. Lynda has not missed an ILANZ conference in ten years and highly recommends attending to connect with colleagues and upskill through tailored CPD sessions.
To this end, the in-house lawyers might well consider themselves having the best of both worlds underpinned by a specialist support network through ILANZ.
The In-house Lawyers Association of New Zealand is a section of the New Zealand Law Society. Established in 1987, it works to connect, support and lead around 3400 in-house lawyers, representing 28% of the legal profession in New Zealand. Find out more about ILANZ membership at ilanz.org/membership/