Silver Fern Farms senior corporate counsel on embracing the new

Joy Liddicoat talks the New Carbon Zero Beef initiative and being inspired by 1980's crime shows

Silver Fern Farms senior corporate counsel on embracing the new
Joy Liddicoat

Joy Liddicoat points to 1980’s crime shows as one of her early inspirations for going into law, leveraging her talent in debate. Even though her father would rather that she went down the accounting route, Liddicoat has proven that following her youthful dream was the right call.

Liddicoat’s aptitude for the law has since been confirmed through her achievements as senior corporate counsel at Silver Fern Farms. She was recently named among NZ Lawyer’s Most Influential Lawyers for 2022, and she shows no signs of stopping when it comes to embracing what life has to offer.

In this interview, Liddicoat talks the need for a focus on how to transition out of the profession, the challenge of keeping up with the growing complexity of law and her curiosity about Ethel Benjamin’s take on the modern legal industry.

What made you choose a career in law, and what's your favourite part of the job?

I grew up in a large family, which meant I had to find my voice early if I was going to be heard. That soon developed into a love of debating and making arguments. Coupled with a love of 1980’s crime shows, I found myself wanting to be a lawyer at quite a young age, much to my father’s surprise. He would have preferred me to be an accountant!

I love working with our general counsel, Melissa Soh-Newstead, who has incredible knowledge and legal expertise. My favourite part of the job is working across teams with others who are experts in their area. An inter-disciplinary approach, coupled with a complex business, is really intellectually stimulating and rewarding.

What is going on at the organisation? Are there any new programs and initiatives that you’re particularly interested in?

Silver Fern Farms is going through a large transformation, bringing innovation to many parts of the business from improving technology for farmers and suppliers, improving the supply chain, upgrading processing plants and developing new products. I’m especially interested in the programmes to improve sustainability, such as the Net Carbon Zero Beef initiative.

What tech-related initiatives adopted by the organisation, if any, are you most excited about?

The improvements to develop more app-based technologies for farmers and suppliers. This really has the potential to improve the speed and efficiency of communications.

What has been your proudest accomplishment in the last year or so? Or what’s the biggest lesson you learned in the past year and what advice can you give fellow lawyers about it?

The Net Carbon Zero Beef has been a game changer and I am very proud to have been part of that. I would advise fellow lawyers to open up to being creative – that is part of how the law continues to evolve and respond to social and economic changes. Being named one of the Most Influential Lawyers for 2022 is a real highlight for me, to get that recognition from others in the profession.

I’m also very proud of being part of a team that received a Privacy Trust Mark for our in-house data breach reporting tool. That was a great collaboration with our IT team and was really successful.

What should the profession focus more on?

We spend a lot of time focusing on career progression – getting more skills, becoming more senior, that kind of thing. But we spend a lot less time thinking about how we want to end our careers: when and how to move out of the profession. There is a whole cohort of women lawyers, for example, who are the first cohort to spend their entire working lives as lawyers. We need to talk more about how to support those who want to ease out of law, or who need to scale back their roles for personal or other reasons.

Mentoring is also really important – and especially “reverse mentoring” where young lawyers can help teach us older ones. I love mentoring and coaching Fraser McCallum, who was named a finalist in the New In-house lawyer for ILANZ 2022. He has worked so hard, and this is a great accomplishment for someone just out of law school two years ago!

What are the challenges you expect in your practice, and in the business of law in general, going forward? What challenges are particularly pressing in the country’s legal industry?

Law is getting more complex all the time: it is increasingly hard to be a generalist, as there are so many areas that are so specialised. Being an in-house lawyer is a real advantage in that respect as you have the opportunity to do a wide variety of work and not get stuck in a speciality. I think it is a real challenge to keep up on law as a whole and the continuing legal education is a key part of helping with this.

What are you looking forward to the most in the coming year?

Whatever the year brings: I want to just keep on embracing the new.

If you were given an opportunity to spend a day with anyone (living or dead), who would it be and why?

Ethel Benjamin: The Otago Women Lawyers Association has an annual Ethel Benjamin address and often wonder what Ethel Benjamin – the first woman lawyer in New Zealand – would make of the legal profession today.

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