Warren and Mahoney senior legal counsel talks sustainability and robotic dogs

Charlotte Moll is also looking forward to putting COVID-19 behind her

Warren and Mahoney senior legal counsel talks sustainability and robotic dogs
Charlotte Moll

A career in the legal profession runs in the family for Charlotte Moll, whose father and brothers are all in the business. However, this in-house star, who is the senior legal counsel at architect firm Warren and Mahoney, is certainly not content to be in the shadow of her family.

Moll brings her appreciation for the beauty and innovation of architectural work into her job, and has been able to witness some remarkable developments in the process, from virtual reality to robot dogs. Being all in on the work that she does has brought her recognition as an award winner at the ILANZ awards.

In this interview, Moll discusses being named the MAS Young In-house Lawyer of the Year for 2021, rediscovering the social aspects of her job and a day of laughter with her war hero grandfather.

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?

My proudest accomplishment in the last year was winning the MAS Young In-house Lawyer of the Year Award at the ILANZ awards. This gave me an opportunity to look back on what I’ve done in my career so far, take stock and express gratitude to those who have supported me.

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

I don’t want to jinx it, but I’m looking forward to getting back to (a new) normal. I have colleagues across the Tasman who I’ve been working with for two years, and I’ll meet them face-to-face for the first time when I head to Sydney in April.

A new team member joined my team in Auckland in November and we’ve spent less than three full weeks in the studio together. I want to reconnect with my colleagues, rediscover the fun and social aspects of my job and W+M’s culture, and leave my COVID-related concerns behind me. Hopefully this utopia is not far away!

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

It must be in my blood – my father Chris Sygrove is a District Court judge, and two of my three brothers are lawyers: Pete’s a partner at Todd and Walker in Queenstown and Sam is in-house at Mediaworks in Auckland.

My favourite part of my job is that I’m helping people every day to do something I personally believe in. Architecture and interior design are focussed on not only the beauty of the built environment, but also using innovation to improve how people live, work, how they experience hospitals, stadiums, schools, universities and more.

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

Warren and Mahoney is an architect firm with about 400 staff and seven studios spread across in New Zealand and Australia, and it’s currently growing at a rate of knots – meaning there’s a swift pace to how we work, a lot of new people joining us and some really exciting projects underway or on the horizon.

I’m most excited about Warren and Mahoney’s ambition – to be the most influential design company in the Pacific Rim – and geographically where this will take us. We also have a very strong focus on sustainability, and for 15 years have been Toitū carbonzero certified. I’m closely following our leadership in that space to set and achieve bold sustainability targets with our clients.

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

I was moved to watch footage of the Spot the robot dog entering the Christchurch Cathedral to map out the state of the interior. Spot was fitted with Warren and Mahoney’s laser point cloud scanner, which fires out 360,000 laser scan setpoints per second and captures high resolution 360-degree images. We are the lead designers for the rebuild, and the instability of the earthquake damaged cathedral meant it was too dangerous to send a person in to map out all the dimensions, so a robotic dog provided a safe and innovative alternative.

We also provide virtual reality tools, one of which means you can put on a VR headset and “walk through” a virtual design as though it's a completed project – imagine how useful this would be for making design decisions about a project. Testament to the exacting detail and care applied to the project, the built outcomes mirror the original rendered concepts.

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?

My proudest accomplishment in the last year was winning the MAS Young In-house Lawyer of the Year Award at the ILANZ awards. This gave me an opportunity to look back on what I’ve done in my career so far, take stock and express gratitude to those who have supported me.

What should the profession focus more on?

I think the profession could focus more on building and encouraging the use of tools that help the industry and our clients in the legal space. Directly relevant to what I do, for consulting services in the construction world, there are some carefully negotiated industry-accepted templates, such as the ACENZ CCCS and NZIA AAS. When a law firm advises its client to add dozens of pages of special conditions, this results in unnecessary protracted negotiations to bring the risk allocation back to an insurable and reasonable position, with the client footing the legal bill.

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?

I understand that litigation funders and class/representative actions are on the rise, especially in Australia, and I expect that New Zealand will follow suit. Engineering consultancies are currently having trouble even procuring insurance in Australia for some projects. As much as ever, an emphasis on thoughtful drafting alongside brave negotiations, realistic expectations and open dialogue as to the fair allocation of risk is essential for corporate lawyers in the construction industry.

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

I don’t want to jinx it, but I’m looking forward to getting back to (a new) normal. I have colleagues across the Tasman who I’ve been working with for two years, and I’ll meet them face-to-face for the first time when I head to Sydney in April.

A new team member joined my team in Auckland in November and we’ve spent less than three full weeks in the studio together. I want to reconnect with my colleagues, rediscover the fun and social aspects of my job and W+M’s culture, and leave my COVID-related concerns behind me. Hopefully this utopia is not far away!

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

I could choose someone who has significantly contributed to human advancement in the arts, literature, science, politics, equality or otherwise, but I’ve decided to choose someone with whom I know for sure I would have a great day. My late grandfather Gordon Barlow, who I miss a lot, was a war hero, a wonderful storyteller and an avid reader with an incredible brain and a fabulous sense of humour. He never stopped contributing to his community, connecting with his family, driving like a lunatic – and it would be awesome to spend another day laughing away with that man.

 

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