Rising to the challenge
Data breaches, failure to comply with ASX regulations, directors' liability, ASIC charges and even possible extortion – it was a big night for UTS Law students competing in the grand final of the Association of Corporate Counsel Australia's In-House Legal Challenge.
After a one year hiatus, the Challenge returned bigger and better than ever this year.
The competition first ran in 2017 at a time when about 1 in four Australian lawyers were working as in-house counsel.
Now, this figure has jumped to one in three and the upward trend is continuing.
Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) Australia's Ingrid Segota says law students need to be aware of this:
It’s by far the fastest growing sector of the legal profession and there’s a strong demand for young graduates. I would encourage all law students to consider the potential career pathway of an in-house legal position.
The nature of the role means almost any legal issue can come up at any time.
And the 2019 Challenge scenario certainly threw everything at the competitors beginning with what can go wrong when a company outsources the storage and protection of confidential personal data.
Competing teams dealt with a complicated scenario involving a healthcare company, the outsourcing of patient electronic data storage and the subsequent compromising of this date with material stolen and on-sold to a healthcare analytics company overseas.
As in-house legal counsel for the healthcare company, the teams had to come up with legal and ethical solutions for the directors which would ensure the company complied with all its legal obligations and at the same time protected its shareholders and its reputation.
The grand final escalated into a high stakes scenario with a range of complications including extortion, insider trading and company charges under ASIC laws for failure to inform the ASX of issues affecting the company’s share price.
Two teams battled it out to come up with the best legal advice for the fictional healthcare company.
The Challenge Judges were UTS Law Dean, Professor Lesley Hitchens, In-House legal counsel representatives, Jamie Hutchinson from the Commonwealth Bank and Helen Bakoulis from the Bank of China, and UTS Law academic, Dr Robin Bowley.
They also played the roles of the healthcare company directors – pretending to have very little legal knowledge and asking difficult and sometimes amusing questions of the competing teams.
In the end, it was almost a photo finish with Team 2 just scraping through to be declared the winner.
Dr Robin Bowley commended all the competitors:
We were all impressed with the preparation and quality of both teams’ presentations – the competition certainly focussed the minds of the student’s on the very real challenges corporate counsel face and the wide range of legal issues which can confront a commercial entity at any time.