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A former number one junior tennis player in Japan, Keiko Minami is currently head of legal for APAC & ANZ at cybersecurity firm Darktrace. After graduating from law school in Sydney, she worked at tech companies like IBM and Dell EMC. Minami joined Darktrace in 2019, and assumed her current position earlier this year. Recently, the Darktrace legal team was named as the Technology, Media and Telecommunications In-House Team of the Year at the ALB Japan Law Awards 2024.

 

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you're a general counsel based in Asia who'd like to be featured in this series, please email ranajit.dam@tr.com.

 

ALB: Can you tell us about your journey to becoming the Head of Legal for APAC & ANZ at Darktrace? What were some key milestones?

Minami: My journey to become the Head of Legal for APAC & ANZ for Darktrace has been a profound and interesting adventure with lots of support from incredible mentors along the way.

After graduating from law school in Sydney, I started working at IBM. At IBM, I worked on a wide variety of work from IT transactions, regulatory compliance, M&A, litigation, HR, financing and marketing across the APAC & ANZ region, with emphasis on Japan, ANZ and Singapore. I was very fortunate to work with a large team of brilliant lawyers who gave me valuable training to kick-start my career.

After IBM, I moved to Dell. At Dell, I worked on number of high-value complex IT contracts with large commercial and public sector customers, including the largest deal in APAC history at Dell. I also had the opportunity to work with influential female leaders in the tech industry, which inspired me to take on leadership roles in the future.

I then moved to Darktrace, where I started as a sole legal counsel to manage legal matters in APAC & ANZ. My role quickly expanded to having a team of one legal counsel and one paralegal. Today, I focus on managing our legal team to achieve Darktrace’s mission to free the world from cyber disruption as a key member of the APAC & ANZ leadership team.

ALB: How important is the team's culture, according to you? What kind of internal culture are you looking to foster within your team?

Minami: Team culture is the secret sauce for a high-performing team because positive team culture is what enables individual talent to flourish within a team environment. Based on my sporting background as former No.1 ranked junior tennis player in Japan, I learned having fun is essential for high performance. This is because fun is the secret to going that extra mile needed to perform at the top level. This is why our team focuses on having fun. Even when we’re overloaded with work under immense pressure, we still manage to have a laugh about how intense the situation is to keep up our team morale, and as a result, we’ll execute strong as a team. Further, I have a background as an executive coach, so I leverage coaching principles to maintain a high-performing team culture.

ALB: How would you describe your hiring strategy? What kinds of lawyers would make the best fit for your team?

Minami: Team fit has been a very important value in our team’s hiring strategy. We spend a lot of time at work, so working with people who you can stay authentic is fundamental. Most lawyers are very smart, so they can learn quickly even if they don’t have the technical skillset required for the role. Further, I value professionalism. This is because professionalism is the key to success in any field you work in. A few years ago, I hired Melissa Cheng, our legal counsel. She had no relevant cybersecurity legal experience at the time, but she was working in the music industry as an artist manager working with Australia’s platinum-selling and award-winning artists. It was an unconventional hiring decision, but I could see her transferrable skills and valued her professionalism as an industry leader in the music industry. She’s now a thriving tech/cyber lawyer with multiple award recognitions in addition to being an MBA candidate, board member of an Australian mental health organisation and a university law lecturer.

ALB: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

Minami: The best piece of advice as an in-house lawyer was from Anthony Luna, general counsel of IBM Japan. He advised me to think in the shoes of someone that I aspire to be when I’m not sure about something. This advice has anchored me to get closer to who I want to be today. It’s also helped me to navigate those tricky situations as in-house lawyers where there is no right answer, and you need to make a judgment call.

ALB: What advice would you give aspiring legal professionals interested in pursuing a career in the cybersecurity or tech industries?

Minami: I would advise aspiring legal professionals interested in cybersecurity or tech industries to find mentors who work in that industry. I would recommend reaching out to mentors not just in legal roles but in commercial and technical roles too. I think this will help get a much better understanding of how the industry works as a whole and how the legal profession fits into the industry landscape. As legal professionals, I think it’s important to have a good understanding of the value of the legal team within the wider business.

 

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ALB: Can you discuss any notable legal cases or regulatory developments in cybersecurity that have significantly impacted the industry?

Minami: We are seeing more customers partnering with Darktrace to meet their developing requirements regarding data protection and cybersecurity, resulting in our commercial contracts becoming more complex and bespoke to meet their unique needs. This trend seems more evident in heavily regulated industries such as finance and healthcare, where regulators are more active in this space.

​​​​​​ALB: How do you stay up to date with the rapidly evolving legal landscape in the tech and cybersecurity sectors across multiple jurisdictions?

Minami: I sign up to multiple legal newsletters from leading law firms across multiple jurisdictions to keep me up to date with the evolving legal landscape. I am conscious about receiving newsletters on broad topics, so it covers not just tech industry updates but also topics such as employment.

ALB: How does Darktrace ensure compliance with various cybersecurity regulations and standards in the markets it operates in?

Minami: We are seeing increased compliance requirements applying to cybersecurity providers such as new licensing schemes and security frameworks. We foresee this regulatory trend to continue considering the amount of cyber activity happening across the globe. This is why I’d generally recommend in-house legal counsels to keep your external legal counsels close so they can help you navigate these rapidly changing regulatory landscape.

ALB: Looking ahead, what do you see as the most significant legal challenges or trends that the cybersecurity industry will need to navigate in the coming years?

Minami: I think the most significant legal challenge in most industries will be to navigate AI regulations. AI regulations are still in the early stages. Still, I expect these regulations to become relevant not just for AI companies like Darktrace but for companies that want to stay competitive by using AI. Navigating these regulations requires deep understanding of AI technologies and datasets used for the AI. I also expect new AI technology to push legal professionals to be brave in navigating novel legal issues in the future.

 

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