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Marion Hemphill and
The Australian Red Cross Blood Service:

Legal Innovation in the Not-For-Profit Sector

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Not-For-Profit Lawyer of the Year finalist Marion Hemphill recently sat down with the team at Yarris to discuss her role as General Counsel for the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. Read the full interview here.

In 2016, the Australian Red Cross Blood Service (ARCBS) suffered a serious data security breach that affected 550,000 donors. Following the unauthorised access of personal data, the brand faced significant reputational risk.

Leading the response, Marion Hemphill, General Counsel to the ARCBS had to navigate a tight legal framework to find a way forward. It was vital with over 3,500 employees, 100 donor centres and half-a-billion dollars in funding contracts to maintain the brand, the business and the public’s trust.

Drawing from their organisational values of integrity, safety, accountability and excellence, Ms. Hemphill and the governance team ultimately determined the best course of action was to notify the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner and the public immediately, well ahead of their legal obligations to do so.

Following an investigation, the Commissioner found that ‘Data breaches can still happen in the best organisations — and I think Australians can be assured by how the Red Cross Blood Service responded to this event. They have been honest with the public, upfront with my office, and have taken full responsibility at every step of this process.’

For Ms. Hemphill, steering an organisation like the Blood Service requires extensive governance experience and agility. “When you start out at law school...you think you're going to be thinking about problems and reading cases, and just mulling it over and taking your time with the drafting. But actually...businesses often just want a yes or no answer...always wanting to go very quickly, and there's also a lot to be done.”

Making quick decisions often begins by having transparency of the information on hand. The ARCBS recently made the decision to implement Dazychain and centralise their legal operations. "It's really important for us to report on work by divisions and the strategic pillar it aligns to." Ms. Hemphill said, "Also, the level of risk,...the time frame and whether we meet that deadline. That's really hard to do if you're just keeping files and doing it on an Excel spreadsheet. I would say it's impossible."

Managing matters, documents and emails through Dazychain enables the ARCBS legal team to spend less time on manual entry and more time focusing on legal problems. "It frees us up so that we can spend more time doing the work where a human makes a big difference, and we can use that brain power to actually solve a problem and sit down and work with teams to explain the why."

Looking back on the transition from a traditional filing system to Dazychain, Ms. Hemphill said: "The difference for me is being able to bring up a report on one page to show my executive colleagues what's going on. I can also see my team and whether somebody is under a bit too much pressure, because I can look at them individually."

Thanks to these new processes and legal technology, there is now more time to focus on the business of innovation. There are currently 18 treatments developed from plasma, the fluid that carries cells and proteins throughout the body, and demand for the donation component is growing by 11% per year. Ensuring the ARCBS has regulatory and governmental support for new projects is an important part of the growing business and a key priority for Ms. Hemphill and her team. "That's where we're really focusing on innovation...it's the new parts of the business."