At Accenture Japan, the legal department is divided into three key components: contracting, contract management, and compliance, operations, regulatory, and ethics (CORE). These three groups collaborate closely on all projects, underscoring the importance of cooperation and teamwork. Emi Takeda (L) and Makita Takamasa, both managing directors in the legal department, supervise contracting and contract management, and CORE, respectively, fostering a culture of collaboration within the company.
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ALB: Tell us about your legal career so far and what led you to take up this role.
Takeda: I joined Accenture in 2011 after working at an international law firm as a corporate attorney. Accenture was a client of the law firm, and I handled its matters as an outside counsel. I had the opportunity to work as in-house counsel during a secondment to Accenture in Japan's legal team. I enjoyed the people, the deals, the flexible work environment, and more and decided to join the company's in-house.
Makita: I joined Accenture earlier this year, and it was through a former colleague who contacted me. I was originally trained and worked as a lawyer in an international law firm in the UK and Hong Kong. After four years in Japan as an in-house counsel, I moved to Dubai to work for a law firm covering the Middle East. Five years ago, I returned to Japan and joined an IT company as an in-house counsel. Presented with the opportunity for a new challenge, I decided to join Accenture.
ALB: What have been some of your highlights from your time in charge? And what are some leadership lessons you have learnt?
Takeda: It's not easy to pick one, but I think the time I became the Head of Legal for Japan in 2015 was one of the highlights of my tenure here. It was the first time I had attended management meetings as a representative for the legal department. The key lesson is that you need to have the courage to ask for help as early as possible, rather than wait until it's too late. I managed to survive those tough days with the help of many legal leaders and colleagues.
ALB: How important is the company's culture, according to you? What kind of internal culture are you looking to foster within the team and your business as a whole?
Takeda: We have "Core Values" that shape the culture of our company and define its character. These values serve as a foundation for our actions and decision-making processes. Among the Core Values, I believe that "Stewardship" serves as the foundation, expressing our commitment to building a better, stronger, and more enduring company for future generations.
Makita: I was impressed by the friendly, welcoming culture, especially by Project PRIDE, which is an Accenture Japan-wide movement to improve the work and relationships that started eight years ago. Basically, "Respect" for each other, regardless of position, is the ideal behind it, and it is building a wonderful corporate culture, a level of fairness and professionalism, which I have not experienced anywhere else. Leaders are expected to be the best features, so I am learning fast!
ALB: When it comes to cooperating with external lawyers, what qualities or capabilities do you believe are the most critical to not only the work itself but also a sustainable long-term cooperating relationship?
Makita: I often use the analogy of a "Doctor" when comparing in-house and external lawyers. In-house legal is more like a general practitioner, who knows a person's general health or lack thereof, i.e. in-house legal should know the company's legal risks and where care is needed and can provide immediate attention and care. External counsel, on the other hand, is a subject matter expert, such as a brain surgeon who specialises in that area. On the last point of "long-term working relationship," I think a frank and honest discussion about legal budget and fees is a must – without this, it is likely to be "one-off" advice, and both sides may come out feeling dissatisfied (e.g. company expects to pay less, external lawyer expects to be paid more).
ALB: Where would you like to see the team five years from now?
Takeda & Makita: It has been wonderful to witness the growth of our team over the past ten years, both in terms of size and capability. However, there is still room for further growth. One of our goals is to increase the seniority of each team member. We also want each team member to develop trusted relationships with our business partners. In this way, our team, both collectively and individually, can foster strong relationships within the industry.
ALB: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? What motto do you live by?
Takeda: Asking for help as early as possible is crucial in any situation. When you are in trouble, you may feel stuck, but there's often more help from those around you than you might think. Also, my motto is always to have a Plan B. This prevents me from getting stuck in difficult situations and gives me some flexibility in making decisions and overcoming challenges.
Makita: I have been fortunate to have had many great mentors and bosses. If I have to pick one, it would be empathy. Some may wonder what empathy has to do with law or legal, but that's exactly the point. When you answer a legal question, you have to have both IQ and EQ. You have to be able to solve the intellectual question and at the same time answer what the client needs, and this sometimes means reading between the lines and really reading into the client's psychology.