Adrienne, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and why you decided to join Plexus as a legal secondee?
I qualified in Australia in 2005, then worked here for 18 months before I moved overseas. After that I worked in the UK for 14 years, before coming back to Australia in 2019.
I’ve worked in-house for all but 8 months of my career, mostly with big organisations. While overseas I first started working as a secondee with a local secondment company. I loved the model, I loved the flexibility, and especially being able to take 3 months maternity leave when my wife had our youngest son and just being able to be there in that early time.
When the pandemic struck last year, I found that the focus of the roles that I wanted to do was a bit more in Plexus’ wheelhouse. I have a background in legal operations and legal process improvement and that seems to sit well with a lot of Plexus clients.
What are your favourite things about being a Plexus lawyer?
I’m on my second Plexus engagement, and I love working as a secondee lawyer.
It’s a mixture of a few things for me:
One is that there’s never the time to get bored. I’d say 60-70% of the time we’ve been brought in to solve a problem, and that problem might be ‘we’ve got too much work on at the moment, we need someone to solve it’, or it might be ‘how we are operating just isn’t working for us, can you come in and fix it’.
You are coming in with a very discreet remit, and you’re coming in to really help a client out of a bind.
You’re also usually being picked because you’ve got a unique skill set so you can come in and work problems out. It doesn’t matter that your background is in commercial contracts in engineering, or whatever it might be. Today you might be working in engineering and tomorrow it might be in cinema chains. It’s really about being able to utilise your skills in any industry and that’s part of what keeps it all fresh.
The other side is that you get to meet some awesome people. I’m still texting with my last client at my last secondment about absolutely nothing work related, just about stuff!
What type of secondment do you like the most?
I like both the long and short ones; they both have their advantages.
Sometimes the short assignments can be really fulfilling because you can make the biggest difference to a legal team or a business. It sounds silly talking about an in-house contract lawyer making a difference to someone’s life, but if you’re the difference between them being able to go home and have dinner with the family for two weeks or not then it does make a real difference to people. So those short assignments where you make a big difference are fantastic.
At the same time, I also really like the long assignments where you can go in and make changes over a much longer period of time. It’s really satisfying to know these changes are going to help your client over a much longer term.
It sounds like you have a lot of variety in your secondments. Can you tell us what a day in the life of a Plexus Engage secondee could be like?
I’m really loving my current engagement. Partly because I worked with this client in the UK, so it’s been great reconnecting with some of my old colleagues. But also, because it's great being there to help the business start a new chapter and bring all that institutional knowledge back into the Australian team.
I’ve been brought in as Head of Legal for EQUANS (previously named Engie Services) in Australia and New Zealand.
As part of my role, I work with the executive team across ANZ to manage risk, review all their contracts, put in place all their policies and processes, and put in place to balance risk, while maximising shareholder return.
For example today I’ve done: a review of some subcontractor terms, I’ve been looking at policies that we need to update now that we’ve changed our name, I’ve been talking to our Company Secretary about business name changes, I’ve been talking to the Sales team about how they have to brand things in the new world given that we’ve got to brand everything with the new name but we haven’t changed our name legally yet and we won’t for another couple of months, inter-company loans, tax considerations, and it’s only 10:19am!
I’m having a blast!
Do you have any advice for someone thinking about becoming a secondee?
I think before embarking on becoming a secondee you’ve got to be confident in your ability to know what you don’t know.
We’re hired because we’re good lawyers and we know what we’re doing on the legal front. When you’re in an in-house role you need to be aware of when you can pick something up and run with it and knowing when you need to go ‘actually I need some advice on this, who can I go to ask that’.
What sets secondees and fixed lawyers apart is that contract lawyers don’t have that first 90 days getting up to speed. You have the first week, better the first day even.
If you have the ability, to quote Julia Roberts from Pretty Woman “fly by the seat of your pants,” while still being able to do your job well then you’d be perfect.
Adrienne has been engaged as a Plexus Lawyer since 2020 and is currently on her second secondment.
Plexus Engage has helped Australia’s leading Legal functions adopt agile resourcing to fill capacity gaps and build more effective Legal functions for over ten years. Learn more about finding or becoming a Plexus lawyer today.