Dennis Tuan-Mu, Head of Legal APAC at Delaware North, talks winning the Travel, Tourism and Hospitality Lawyer of the Year 2019, whether to expect a seat at the Australian Open, and table tennis tournaments with his 10-year-old.
Why in house?
I am fortunate to have had a diverse career, starting from boutique private practice, before moving to a top tier firm and ultimately making the move in-house. Without a doubt, the most challenging – and as a consequence, the most enjoyable time has been working as an in-house lawyer and needing to quickly adapt to advising on multiple new practice areas across different jurisdictions.
Being an in-house counsel means becoming a trusted advisor that is fully invested in the long-term future of the business. This is achieved by constant monitoring of potential business opportunities and taking pro-active steps to identify future challenges that the business may encounter. Having a strong commercial and strategic mindset is a must, as is the ability to problem solve nuanced and complex issues that often have no simple legal solution.
Finally, developing internal stakeholder relationships and practically managing risk and compliance is also critical as an in-house lawyer. Ultimately, finding the optimal balance to all the above competing factors is what I find most invigorating. One of my favourite quotes exemplifying the life of an in-house counsel is “the difficult we do immediately, the impossible just takes a little longer”.
What are you up to at the moment?
My current role is Head of Legal & Compliance for Delaware North in the Asia Pacific region. This September marks my ten year anniversary with the company and I’ve enjoyed every moment of it! Since I’ve joined Delaware North, I have had the opportunity to develop my own team and lead some fascinating projects that have contributed to Delaware North’s exponential growth as a business that generates annual revenues of $4bn AUD worldwide.
Unfortunately, being a company that operates in the hospitality and tourism sector we are one of the industries hardest hit by Covid-19. As a result, the vast majority of our 200+ locations across the globe are either closed or operating at significantly reduced capacities. As a consequence, in the past few months my role has been focused mainly on client negotiations, risk mitigation strategies and plans for the re-opening of our venues to make sure both our staff and guests are safe.
At this stage it remains a constantly evolving landscape. In the US, we’ve seen the upcoming US Open tennis tournament move to an unprecedented crowd-less environment, but we’re remaining hopeful that the Australian Open will be open to the public, albeit with restricted numbers. We will just have to cross our fingers and wait and see!
Most memorable moments in Law?
It’s hard to believe I’ve been practicing law for over 18 years now! I’ve been extremely fortunate to have accumulated a lot of fond memories throughout the duration of my legal career. A particular memory that comes to mind is my first Supreme Court litigation victory as a junior lawyer – a precedent setting case against a large international bank which began in a very John Grisham-like fashion: an impossible case against the odds!
Recently, winning the Travel, Tourism and Hospitality Lawyer of the Year 2019 was a tremendous honour. A culmination of an amazing year where I led the acquisition of Darwin Casino & Resort and I was proud to see my team recognised with their nomination for legal team of the year.
How has the Covid-19 changed the way that you work?
Unfortunately, our global workforce is significantly leaner than it was before the Covid-19 pandemic began and I find myself back to my humble beginnings as the sole lawyer for Delaware North in the Asia Pacific at the moment. What this means is the ability to prioritise and juggle numerous urgent matters has become more important than ever. In addition, I have also had to further streamline our processes to be as cost effective as possible to best manage the unprecedented impacts to our operations.
Working from home yes or no?
A massive yes! I’m a great believer in time efficiency, and time spent not commuting is time better spent on actual work, which can be done just as effectively from home. That being said, I do miss the camaraderie and interactions with my colleagues.
What has gotten you through lockdown 2.0?
I’d say family and AFL! The former more so as 2020 has been a pretty challenging year for my beloved Hawks! I’m spending a lot more time on family activities with my wife Jenny and my ten-year-old son Josh. We usually love playing tennis, but have had to get fairly creative during lockdown. We’ve recently converted our dining room table to a table tennis table and have been enjoying some fun and highly competitive tournaments.