Working at home didn’t come naturally to Rachael Lynch at first, but now she’s a staunch supporter
It was Rachael Lynch’s aptitude for words rather than numbers that helped her to see law as the way to go. As a student, the in-house veteran had pursued clinical psychology, but quickly saw that she wasn’t on the right path.
Since then, Lynch has stuck with law, enjoying a stint with Simpson Grierson before making the shift to in-house legal work – a field of law that she says allows one to “use skills beyond the pure legal skills.” Last month, she was announced as Juno Legal’s newest lawyer after a significant run at BP Oil as the company’s chief legal adviser.
In this interview, Lynch discusses adjusting to remote work having never worked a single day from home, the change in New Zealand’s perspective on flexible working arrangements and staying in style at home by looking for “the least unattractive office chair” at an office furniture shop.
What made you choose a career in law, and what’s your favourite part of the job?
I actually started studying clinical psychology but after working out quite quickly that it wasn't for me, I switched to law, probably because I was better with words than numbers! Having chosen law, though, I've never thought about leaving – I like the variety of work my roles have always entailed and being in-house allows you to use skills beyond the pure legal skills, which I really enjoy.
What is the most memorable case you've taken on/been involved in?
Although no one ever really chooses to deal with a regulator, being part of the industry chosen to be the subject of the Commerce Commission's first-ever market study last year and leading the team in that response was a great process to be involved in and an experience that certainly taught me a lot.
What is going on at the firm? Are there any new programs and initiatives that you’re particularly interested in?
I think the nature of the offer that Juno Legal provides is itself really interesting. The legal profession isn't quick to change, but I think the model that Juno Legal offers reflects the fact that the way and the pace at which organisations approach strategic resourcing is changing and it's exciting to be a part of that.
What has been your proudest accomplishment in the last year or so?
It's a bit of a cliché, and I'm not going to use the word "pivot", but I think the way everyone adjusted to the challenges of last year (and the continuing challenges) is definitely something to be proud of. Until March last year I had never worked one day from home, so finding myself at an office furniture shop looking for the least unattractive office chair and converting the front room to a study certainly didn't feel natural. But the fact that we appeared to move seamlessly from being in an office with our colleagues to only interacting over Zoom or Teams and doing our jobs with equal success is definitely an achievement.
What are some challenges lawyers face in the profession?
I think the move to more flexible working practices as a result of COVID-19 will hopefully benefit all lawyers as it permits individuals to arrange their work patterns to better meet their overall needs. In my view, New Zealand was behind the rest of the world when it came to working flexibly, but I have seen first-hand a real change in attitudes since last year.
Urgent and unrealistic client demands (and I've possibly made those demands in the past) will still be a factor that often impacts lawyers being able to fully embrace flexible working but hopefully this too might improve as businesses adapt to new ways of working.
What is your outlook for the legal industry this year?
I think the pressure on businesses as a result of COVID-19 means that the way organisations are resourced will start to look different and we will definitely see continued focus on better and more efficient delivery of legal services. This might mean an increase in the use of flexible and on-demand resource being brought in to assist with projects and transactions as needed, rather than traditional recruitment or outsourcing, as that provides greater agility and flexibility in helping manage legal risk while keeping a lid on costs.