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“Lean ship” + straight talking gets results for Fonterra

“Lean ship” + straight talking gets results for Fonterra

When Fonterra, a multi-national diary co-operative and one of New Zealand’s largest companies, needed advice on implementing the changes introduced by the new Dairy Code of Conduct 2020, they turned to CIE Legal. Says Jared Pereira, Fonterra’s Senior Corporate Counsel, “I engaged with CIE because I knew they had some similar parallel experience, especially around the Horticulture Code of Conduct. This was important because the Dairy Code itself is entirely new, so a firm with experience of something similar was valuable to us.”

The Dairy Code of Conduct, introduced in January 2020, is a new mandatory code that changes the way all milk processors engage with suppliers, especially in relation to contracts. Fonterra needed assistance to review and, if necessary, adapt its contracts with suppliers to ensure compliance.

Practical advice

Says Pereira, “Because the Dairy Code was new, I wanted to lean on people who were sensible and practical around providing advice. I didn’t need black letter law input – I needed experience that I could use as a sounding board.”

Andrew [Thompson]’s previous experience on the Horticultural side was important for us. I could have gone to a larger firm, paid more and received an essay with caveats. I wasn’t looking for that: I wanted practical guidance. This is where CIE Legal is strong – they provide me with the advice first and then with the thinking behind it. This helps with my stakeholders who want a ‘yes or no’ answer and only occasionally require the story behind it.”

“The way CIE Legal went about the work suited us really well. I felt I could pick up the phone and talk casually and candidly and they would be direct in response. They have an attitude of ‘we can make it work’ and have a real sense of ownership over the work I do with them: that’s rarer than it should be in legal. I don’t expect my external lawyers to know everything, but I do expect them to be able to make a call.”

Applying resources efficiently

Pereira also found that CIE Legal took a commercial approach to the workload, reducing their input where it wasn’t needed. “Several times, they said to me, “you can ask me to do it, but it will cost you more and it’s not in your best interests. They don’t do the work for the sake of doing the work – they will give an honest assessment and respond with what’s best for me. I value that tremendously”.”


“Andrew Thompson, as the partner in charge, has been very responsive throughout this project. His team turned the work around quickly, provided advice at short notice where it was needed and were always available. About a month ago, I worried about something and I called Andrew at after close of business on a Friday. He was happy to take the call, we chatted for 20 mins and he gave me advice straight away. The issue was sorted-out and I didn’t have to worry about it over the weekend.”

Boutique firm benefits

Pereira considered other firms for the Dairy Code work, but intentionally chose CIE Legal, a seven partner firm, saying, “As a large multi-national, you’d think I’d go to a big firm, but when I do that, I find it’s easy to get lulled into thinking you get the best service, but in reality you don’t get much partner input. CIE Legal, on the other hand, runs a lean ship and I am always assured of getting a partner’s or SA’s time.”

Decent and equitable

Pereira also points out that there is a strong alignment of culture and values between Fonterra and CIE Legal: “We have an unambiguous policy of equity of access for women and minorities and CIE Legal reflect this in the teams that work with us. They take action, rather than talk, and ensure their business is as diverse as possible.”

“At the end of the day, it’s about getting a quality output as efficiently, but also as smoothly as possible, with minimum stress. CIE Legal deliver that for Fonterra.”

This content is provided for reference only and may not be current on the date of access. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.

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