Interview with Elizabeth Briggs (Head of Legal)
In this new feature, we wanted to give you an inside look at what it’s really like to work for various companies. This week we interviewed Elizabeth Briggs who is the Head of Legal at ClearView.
ClearView is a fully diversified Australian life insurance and wealth management business. We’re committed to helping financial advisers, strategic partners and customers by providing access to a range of market leading life insurance and wealth management solutions.
Legal team size
4 lawyers, 2 company secretaries and 3 paralegals.
- How would you describe the culture in your legal team?
Hard work but fun. We have a small legal team that interacts really closely with the business. The main difference with being in-house is that your clients are sitting next to you a lot of the time so you need to be responsive. You have to be willing to get involved in a variety of different matters as the business requires.
We have a really close team though and we all laugh a lot.
Whenever I hire someone I see this as an opportunity to grow their career, as opposed to a move for the perceived work/life balance of in-house.
- What’s the main types of work that your team do?
We think of ourselves as a mini-law firm of 4. On any given day we will work on: Life Insurance, Wealth, Super, Financial Advice, IP, General Commercial, Employment, Privacy etc. Anything that the business needs.
A lot of our work, being a financial services company, is working with ASIC, APRA and the ASX.
- So what is your average day like?
A lot of my day is filled up with meetings. Meeting the board, the MD, regulators, external providers, project meetings, internal committee meetings etc. I assist the business from a legal and strategic perspective which is really interesting and challenging.
I also sit on a lot of internal committees (which the wider team are also involved in) to assist the business with more complex matters and drive particular strategic outcomes.
The team will generally have less meetings on a daily basis. They will typically have around 2 hours of meetings and then will be dealing on their independent matters. They all take ownership of a set division of the business which then use them as a main point of contact on legal. There are always a number of projects being progressed which the lawyers are also involved with and help drive from a legal perspective. I then get involved to help, train, develop, or advise on potential complex problem and strategy.
- What about hours? The typical question
Again, this varies on a daily basis. Our clients are sitting with us so there are times when we need to be very responsive. I would say that in house you generally have more control over hours. Setting business expectations is a key challenge.
We’re not a face time culture at all, you get your work done, you can leave. If you need to shoot off early for something then we can manage it. Hours can be longer when stuff needs to get done, but it can be managed.
- How do you tackle development? One of the biggest perceptions is that the training is better in private practice?
I have spent a lot of time developing our development program and we split it into career development and personal development.
Career and technical development is led mainly by external experts across various fields: We have monthly team training on key topics; ‘case by case’ training on specific issues, technical training to keep our core legal skills strong and training on key law reform. We also have budget for courses should someone want to further develop a skill in a particular area.
Career development is a team activity and is something that I am particularly passionate about. I think that its important we develop our careers in a positive way, so we are doing work we enjoy and making the most of our days. Each quarter we read a book on approach to work, work styles, management or leadership and read a chapter each week of the selected book, discuss the learnings and try and implement what we have learnt into our daily routine. Recently we finished ‘How to have a good day’ by Caroline Webb. We also connect with other in-house teams to share our in house experiences and discuss common challenges. These sessions have been amazing as we have been able to see how other teams work, operate and train and we have been able to improve our team – while also forming some really great new friendships.
- What is the best thing about your job?
The variety or work and the team.
- What is the hardest part?
Managing expectations and juggling lots of balls at once.
- When you look to hire into your team, what do you look for?
I want someone who is making the move in-house for the right reasons. Cultural fit is essential, it’s a small team and we need to get on.
Someone who is genuinely interested in the work that the company does and what we are trying to achieve.
Most importantly though, I want someone who adds value. Who can see an opportunity to help out, or can see an inefficiency and present a solution. Someone who is solution focussed is really important.
- When you’re not in the office where will you be?
I love skiing. When possible, I will be on the slopes. Generally though I am a huge sport fan: AFL, The Wallabies. I also really enjoy taking French classes and I’m interested in interior architecture and design.
- How should people get in contact with you?
If people are interested in speaking with me more then I am always happy to mentor junior lawyers or law students. The best way is either a short LinkedIn message saying why you are interested in speaking with me, or contact Tom at EG and ask him to put you in touch.