Amilha Young, Company Secretary & Legal Counsel at Altus Strategies, is another of the bright legal minds who will be speaking at the GC Forum which will run as part of the wider Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town in early May. Africa Legal asked her a few questions ahead of the event.
A qualified lawyer with over 20 years’ experience in corporate governance, Young has worked with listed and private companies in the financial services and natural resources sectors in Africa and the UK. She is also a member of Women in Mining UK.
Q: What words spring to mind when considering what your role as an in-house counsel in African mining has been like whilst the world navigates the Covid-19 pandemic? A: Flexibility and agility. It’s important to be able to adapt to change and be ready to provide the business with innovative solutions. As in-house counsel, you already have, or are in a position to gain, an in-depth knowledge of the business, which is a strong factor in being able to face challenges head-on without fear of getting burnt out from routine but important time-sensitive work, whilst also creating space to innovate, anticipate new threats and identify opportunities. If you can get the balance just right, then as in-house counsel you are already half-way through to navigating the challenges the business will face in the “new normal”.
Q: What, to your mind, are some of the most pervasive skills gaps amongst mining lawyers which the community should be seeking to remedy? A: Reaching out to counterparts in the industry, sharing best practice and networking. The mining industry tends to be cautious about sharing information on current projects, but it would be great if we could get together from time to time and be able to talk through issues peer-to-peer on a no-names basis under Chatham House.
Q: Has your career taken the path you expected when you first moved into an in-house position? A: Not at all! I first moved in-house from a corporate law firm into the banking world, nearly 20 years ago, where my plan was that I would continue to make my career as a banking lawyer until retirement… of course, that didn’t happen! Much of my career has been shaped by events not entirely of my engineering. For example, in 2013, I was “poached” out of banking by an AIM listed mining company with headquarters in London, who were drawn to my experience in certain regulatory jurisdictions in Africa, where they had operations. It was a great opportunity for me to step up into a GC role, and for me the added appeal was coming full circle into the mining industry – I was born and grew up in the Copperbelt in Zambia, and I come from a mining family – so it just felt right.
Q: What behaviour or practice would you have all private practice legal advisers be forced to drop, as if by magic, overnight? A: Stop drafting long, drawn out, long-winded, theoretical legal opinions filled with legal jargon, case references and chapter and verse on legal statutes – unless in-house counsel asks for one. Cut to the chase, provide a high-level, executive summary of the legal issues – and, as far as possible, provide several options, with your recommendation as to which would be the most optimal solution. Time is usually of the essence in any deal these days, so the client would prefer to spend their valuable time on their business, not trying to decipher an opinion.
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