Jeremy Zwaigoft chats with Lee Ruddy about lockdown 2.0, memorable moments in law and the value of the day-to-day assistance of in-house counsels.
Why in house?
At an early stage in my legal career, I was drawn to the prospect of a career inhouse.
After a number of years in private practice, my sense was that in-house lawyers were well placed to add value and insights to their employer, in a way that was not typically possible in private practice.
In private practice, lawyers had to spread their limited availability across a number of clients and disciplines, and were often only approached to implement a decision that had already been made by their clients or to respond to an issue that had already arisen.
I felt that a career in private practice was likely to see me learning a little bit about a lot of clients, whereas in-house offered the opportunity to learn a lot about one client, and develop a sound understanding of the strategic and commercial drivers of my employer, whilst having a “seat at the table” in the decision making process.
I was fortunate enough to be offered a greenfields in-house role at an ASX listed telecommunications company as a relatively young lawyer, and the rest is history.
Tell us about what you’re up to at the moment?
Quite a lot!
My employer, LK Group, operates across a wide and diverse range of industries, including property and construction, sport, technology and media and private equity, and owns and operates the NBL in Australia and New Zealand.
At the moment, I am working a complex project to redevelop the Derwent Entertainment Centre in Hobart, that will support the expansion of the NBL into Tasmania in 2021.
This project involves LK Group’s property and construction business, as well as supporting the NBL in establishing a new club in Tasmania.
Additionally, I am supporting the NBL’s preparation for the 2020/21 season, which has involved drafting and negotiating sponsorship agreements, merchandising agreements, content rights and rights to data and vision for betting purposes.
As always, the private equity arm of my employer’s business is busily focused on the diligence of potential investment opportunities, which means there is never a dull moment.
Most memorable moments in law?
It is hard to pick just a few memorable moments.
Being in house, I tend to find that the most memorable moments for me are interlinked with my employers’ successes over the years. Inevitably, you ride the highs and the lows together, and share in the successes, and ‘not so’ successes.
During my career, I have been fortunate enough (as well as sleep deprived) to be deeply involved in strategically important M&A and financing transactions, including M2 Group’s A$250m acquisition of Dodo, the Scheme of Arrangement between M2 Group and Vocus Group valued at A$3.75bn, financing of debt facilities in excess of A$1bn and Vocus’ $1bn acquisition of Nextgen from the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and associated capital raisings.
Completing the construction of its $800m “Capitol Grand” development in South Yarra that includes 400 residential apartments and a retail precinct has definitely been a memorable moment for my employer and for me.
It was also incredibly satisfying to conclude the negotiation of an agreement that I had drafted to see the Tasmanian Government sign on as a major sponsor for the NBL’s expansion Tasmanian club – with the Premier signing the agreement for the Tasmanian Government.
That said, I am very proud of the day to day assistance that my team provides to the various businesses of my employer. Though often not as glamorous as a multimillion dollar deals, it’s just as valuable and essential for creating the platform from which the bigger deals can develop.
How has COVID-19 changed the way you work?
Like most Victorian lawyers at the moment, I feel as though my working day is an endless cycle of Zoom, Teams or WebEx calls from home.
I have also developed a knowledge and understanding of Force Majeure clauses and Frustration principles that would make Cheshire and Fifoot proud.
The adjustment to working from home has not been as dramatic as I had initially anticipated. I think as lawyers, we are generally capable of working from home in substantially the same manner as in the office, exchanging physical interactions for virtual ones.
Working from home yes or no?
It is all about balance.
Working from home definitely has its perks, and has enabled me to be more connected to my family and local neighbourhood.
‘Disconnecting’ from work though has become more challenging with the blurring of the physical separation between work time and home time when working from home. A good balance between working from home and working from the office is important.
What’s getting you through lockdown 2.0?
I find that having a routine and structure certainly helps!
I tend to start my day with a stroll to one of the several local cafes for a large latte and browsing the Financial Review, before logging on for the day at the same time that I would have done if I was in the office.
The management team at LK Group is a closely-knit group of people, so regular virtual catch-ups (both on professional and personal levels) has been invaluable for coping with lockdown 2.0.