Lee Ruddy talks with the new General Counsel of Time & Place, Luana Petrovs, about beginning a new job during lockdown, starting up a legal function and the joy of mentoring juniors.
Why in House?
In-house represents an opportunity to be a part of the “why” and not the just the “how”. It allows you to form close relationships with internal stakeholders, to understand the bigger picture of a business – whether that be commercial drivers or the risk appetite of the business – and ultimately to become a trusted advisor who is involved in the future vision and strategy of the business. In-house also gives you far greater exposure to different areas of law: everything from my speciality, which is property development, to finance, employment, IP, general corporate and construction. A General Counsel is like the GP of law, and with that comes the need to be honest in admitting what you do know and what you need to learn.
What are you up to at the moment?
I recently joined Time & Place, a Melbourne and Sydney based property development group so I have been busy setting up the legal function, the key driver of which is to ensure that Legal delivers value in the right places and at the right time. For a group that hasn’t had an in-house legal function before, it’s about bringing the team along on the journey and helping them understand and adjust to having an internal legal function focused on minimising risk rather than simply saying ‘no’.
In terms of projects, I am working on a number of new opportunities in Melbourne and Sydney, including the Maxcap Industrial Fund, a JV in Glen Iris and getting up to speed on the forward funding arrangement for 200 Victoria Parade, East Melbourne.
Most memorable moment in law?
My passion is people and building positive relationships, so mentoring junior lawyers or colleagues has always been one of the most rewarding and important parts of my legal career. Listening, sharing knowledge and experiences, helping to guide, inspire and challenge others, particularly those I work alongside, creates a trusted team that can do anything together. I have been fortunate to have the pleasure of working closely with one of the best junior lawyers I have ever encountered, including seeing him grow from a paralegal unsure about his future in law to moving his admission, which was a great honour. It’s a relationship that I will value for the rest of my life, and seeing him achieve what he has makes me incredibly happy.
How has Covid-19 changed the way you work?
Many times in my career I have heard the words “you must be seen to be in your office”; how interesting it is now to see how this has changed as a result of COVID19 and the technology that now allows us to work remotely. Starting a new role during COVID19 has been challenging but one benefit has been one-on-one Zoom calls with each team member which has allowed me to have a more meaningful chats with everyone, rather than the rushed new starter walk around where you forget most people’s names within 15 minutes.
Working from home yes or no?
I love it! Working from home makes it easier to get through the key things I have set for each day, with shorter more focused meetings leaving time to spend with my partner, two daughters, two dogs and rabbit, while leaving some time for me. Having said that, I do miss the team interaction. A mix would be ideal.
What has helped get you through this recent period?
Coffee and chocolate, that’s for sure! Honestly though, having an incredibly supportive team at Time & Place has made all the difference. From a seamless on-boarding, to ensuring we are all personally connected through regular check-ins, delivering facemasks, biscuits, food hampers and movie vouchers for an in-house movie night. This culture ultimately reflects the values at Time & Place and the care they have for the team and I feel privileged to be a part of it.