Australian in-house lawyers of the year revealed

In a night of glamour and all things legal, in-house lawyers across Australia were celebrated, and the best of the best received awards in recognition of their talent

The winners of the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association (ACLA) In-house Lawyer Awards 2014 were announced last night at the Annual Awards Dinner, held at the National Wine Centre in Adelaide.

Big award winners included Debra Tegoni, the executive general manager – legal & regulatory services at Crown Melbourne, who took home the title of Corporate Lawyer of the Year.

Tegoni’s win is recognition of the fact that the talented lawyer has managed to build an effective team that works in a highly regulated environment, constantly subject to significant public scrutiny.

But the in-house lawyer has also gone above and beyond: Through mentoring and public speaking, she has supported and been an advocate for greater representation for women in corporate Australia.

She sits on the Victorian Government’s Gambling Ministerial Advisory Council and has played a key role in developing Crown’s Social Responsibility strategy. Tegoni is also highly regarded by Crown’s senior management for her legal expertise and broad commercial and leadership skills.

The Suncorp Group was another to come out of the awards triumphant, and its legal & secretariat team won the Legal Team of the Year (Large) award in recognition of their success in delivering high quality and value for money legal and secretariat services for the Group.

In particular, the judges noted the team’s recent successes in panel consolidation, implementation of value billing arrangements, enhancement of matter management systems and introduction of point-in-time reporting of external legal costs.

The team has played a critical role in helping Suncorp achieve its strategic goals, including through the creation of Australia’s largest general insurer, a significant preference share offer and achieving advanced Basel accreditation. In addition, team members are encouraged to focus on their wellbeing and work/life balance.

And the ACLA In-house Lawyers Awards also gave a good indication of future legal super stars to look out for: Grant Pritchard, legal counsel at Telstra, received the award for Young Lawyer Achiever of the Year.

The judges noted that his impressive performance is best summarised by his contribution to project ‘Everest’ - the complete rewrite and renegotiation of the sourcing contracts that underpin Telstra's multi-billion dollar mobile device business.

Not only was Pritchard able to achieve unprecedented consistency in terms across Telstra’s entire supplier list, but he also ensured a reduction of external legal spend by almost one fifth of the estimated expenses.
And the young lawyer didn’t stop there: He also independently developed new processes, tools and work methods which drove exceptional efficiency.

Following the conclusion of project ‘Everest’, Pritchard presented the information he gathered in such a way that his talk was described by Telstra’s group general gounsel, Carmel Mulhern as "being widely regarded as one of the best presentations ever delivered to the Telstra legal team.”

Trish Hyde, the CEO of ACLA says the awards were a great reflection of the highly level of legal talent operating throughout the country.

“We were overwhelmed by the number of nominations this year, the quality of each finalist and the winners are reflective of the high standard of professionals within the in-house legal industry,” she says.

The full list of ACLA In-house Lawyers Awards winners are:

Corporate Lawyer of the Year: Debra Tegoni, executive general manager – legal & regulatory services, Crown Melbourne.
Finalists: Duncan Ramsay, Steadfast Group; Fiona Thompson, Suncorp Group

Government Lawyer of the Year: Janean Richards, chief legal counsel & group manager, Department of Social Services
Finalists: Maryellen Hipworth, State Solicitors Office; Joanne Keen, Energex; Catherine Leslie, Australian Government Solicitor

Legal Team of the Year (Large): Suncorp Group
Finalists:  Defence Legal; Wesfarmers

Legal Team of the Year (Small):  Bayer Australia
Finalists: Arup; GM Holden

Young Lawyer Achiever of the Year: Grant Pritchard, legal counsel, Telstra
Finalists:Freya Smith, Kyocera Document Solutions; Claire Spencer, Stanwell Corporation

Excellence in Corporate Social Responsibility: Australian Government Solicitor
Finalist: Leanne Clark, Commonwealth Bank; Arup

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