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The Innovators: Sian Wingate, Senior Legal Counsel, Ultrafast Fibre and ILANZ President

06 March 2020

LawFest organiser Andrew King continues a series of interviews with key legal professionals with their innovation and technology stories.

Tell us about yourself?

I’m Sian Wingate and I absolutely love being a lawyer! I wear a few hats in the legal profession.

Sian Wingate

I am president of the In-house Lawyers Association of New Zealand (ILANZ). This is a great, voluntary role that focuses on working with our wonderful in-house legal community to ensure they are connected with each other and the wider profession, supported by member events, CPD, development opportunities and led by a team of volunteer committee members and dedicated Law Society, Te Kāhui Ture staff to ensure their interests are covered.

I am senior legal counsel at Ultrafast Fibre Ltd. We build broadband fibre networks across New Zealand. I look after the legal operations of the team and the day-to-day matters.

I run my own online legal service called Tradie Terms. This is a coaching service that offers legal T&Cs packages to tradie business owners and wraps coaching around this using webinars and short videos and checklists accessed from a portal to help them use them effectively.

What does legal innovation mean to you?

Always designing your legal output with your client audience in mind 100% of the time.

What role does technology play in innovation?

It’s a facilitator to achieve the output that meets clients’ wants and needs. I believe that technology products and services lawyers have started to use are not in themselves the “innovation” (sorry legal tech companies!). The innovation is the mindset shift by lawyers to realise it must be used, it can be used and that it meets our primary brief: to look after our clients.

What pressures are organisations facing in the delivery of legal services?

Time is the single biggest pressure:

  • Time to think about what the organisation needs from a legal team.
  • Time to scope out the options, learn about them and understand them.
  • Time to implement any changes needed.
  • Time to upskill in crucial skills like business analysis, user-experience design thinking and customer service skills.

Every organisation I have worked with or for suffered from being time poor. Every in-house member who chats about leveraging technology to roll out a great new onboarding process or a self-service template area or a legal matter management system all have the same thing in common. They take an age to achieve it because they have the day-to-day work to do as well, plus they are learning from scratch.

What developments do you see in how legal services are delivered?

I have seen some fantastic developments in the in-house arena.

Here’s a few:

  • Thinking of efficiency first and then working out how to buy in or design a product to achieve that;
  • Using training and workshops to collaborate with in-house clients to help them learn how to use a new service or gather their feedback first before launching it;
  • Being creative and resourceful – in-house lawyers are especially awesome at this.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought to you?

The opportunity to feel confident to just get started. You’re not innovative if you don’t actually do something. Thinking about it and waiting until you think it’ll be perfect is a lawyer’s greatest risk to innovation.

What are some of your tips to start innovating or developing an innovative mindset?

I’d strongly recommend the three pillars I teach at our ILANZ mindset workshop:

1 Value your function. If you know that you are offering genuine value to a client, you will know if it’s worth spending some extra effort to make it the best function you can in the time and with the budget you have.

2 Value your time. If you want to try something new, you need to know that your time is worth spending on learning new skills, reading about legal technology options or meeting a former colleague to ask them to show you what they have used. It’s essential to value that this is time well-spent.

3 Value your audience. If you are designing a new legal function, a new product or learning how to create a new compliance framework for your business it’s only ever going to work if you value the input from your audience. Ask them, check with them and ask them to road-test options with you. They’ll love you for it and they’ll be more likely to adopt whatever fancy new function, system or programme you roll out.

Why is it important for legal professionals to continue to learn about legal innovation and leveraging technology?

All of the above! But on a more serious note, it’s less about importance and more about necessity. No-one is willing to pay for a service or product unless they know what it involves and how it adds value to them. This translates to legal services whether in-house or privately delivered.


Sian Wingate will be speaking at LawFest, which will be held at the Cordis Auckland on 18 March 2020.

Last updated on the 6th March 2020