Andrew Cotton

Andrew Cotton

Senior Legal Counsel (Europe) at Orica

Andrew Cotton is in this month’s Day in the Life column

Orica, headquartered in Melbourne and listed on the Australian stock exchange, is the world’s largest provider of commercial explosives and blasting systems to the mining, quarrying, oil and gas and construction markets, a leading supplier of sodium cyanide for gold extraction and a specialist provider of ground support services in mining and tunnelling. With more than 11,500 employees worldwide, Orica has an annual turnover of A$5bn and customers in more than 100 countries.

I joined Orica in March 2017 as Senior Legal Counsel for Europe with responsibility for legal matters in around 15 counties in Europe, including Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. I am the sole lawyer in Europe but am part of a wider legal function of around 30 professionals based all around the world who are always happy to give advice and talk things through. We also have Legal Function catch up calls where people can share best practice, give updates on projects and also let others know about events of interest which have taken place in their jurisdictions.

I sit on a European Regional Management Team which gives me an invaluable insight into the business and its challenges and opportunities and allows me to understand the business from different perspectives. Working in a business which manufactures explosives, safety is critical and there is a continual focus on safety. We have a dedicated SHES function and the position is regularly reviewed at all levels of the company.
Orica is undergoing a lot of change at the moment as new systems and ways of working are being introduced which makes it a very exciting time to have joined the company.

With three children ages three, five and six, my day usually starts early and is hectic especially when I’m in charge of getting them ready and dropping them at school or child care! Our European base is located just outside Wigan - it’s not the most glamourous of places but it suits me as it is only a 20-minute drive from where I live. I catch up on the news on the drive in to work as Paw Patrol usually dominates the TV at home in the morning.

A typical day would see me arriving into the office around 8:15am. I first deal with any urgent matters that have come in overnight and then identify the key tasks for the day and also those tasks which, while not urgent, are important and need attention. Although with 3,000 employees spread around Europe, it’s almost guaranteed that something unexpected will come up!

Working in a complex global and highly regulated company, every day is different and I’m involved in a broad range of legal matters – my work ranges from advising on high value customer and supply contracts, joint venture related matters, M&A, competition law, disputes and litigation, supporting HR, health & safety and data protection through to being available for people to bounce thoughts off or raise any concerns they have on matters they are working on. I am also involved in project work such as preparing for the forthcoming introduction of the new General Data Protection Regulations in May 2018. In addition, I work with legal colleagues based in our Singapore hub to provide European legal input on group wide initiatives. There is a continual balance to be struck between what I can do myself and what needs to be referred to local lawyers.

Part of my role is to provide training to the Europe business on the Orica code of conduct, competition law, sanctions/trade compliance and directors’ duties which I enjoy as it gives me the opportunity to get out and meet people around the business.

One of the reasons I moved in-house was to experience a wide variety of work and get closer to the business and I certainly get that at Orica! I also find it fascinating to spend time with people within the business to get a better understanding of the mechanics and processes which sit behind the manufacture of explosives and initiating systems. I recently had a tour of our manufacturing facility in Sweden which was an interesting experience.

The Wigan office is located close to the Leeds-Liverpool canal so when time (and the weather) allows I like to go for a run along the canal at lunchtime in some beautiful countryside to clear my mind and prepare for the afternoon.
Orica is a multi-national company and while at Orica I have spent time in Russia, Sweden, Norway, Ukraine, Australia and around the UK. This has given me a chance to meet colleagues from around the world and also to get a better understanding of how the business works. Having studied languages at university, I enjoy having the chance to practice my (rusty) Russian during trips to the CIS.

I try to be strict with myself and leave by about 18:30 – not always easy though as Orica really is a 24-hour business. With colleagues in Australia, the US, South America, Singapore, and many places around Europe, I have become an expert on time zones and while the occasional early or late call is inevitable, people are reasonable about scheduling calls. On the journey home, I reflect on the day and work out priorities for the next day and enjoy some peace and quiet before arriving home!