Legal Business Blogs

Google UK legal chief departs for GC role at tech start-up

Signalling the increased variety of opportunity within the in-house community, Google’s longstanding UK and Ireland legal chief Emma Jelley has departed the search engine giant for a role as general counsel (GC) at tech start-up Onfido.

Jelley oversaw Google’s legal affairs for the UK and Ireland for the past eight years and headed the legal team for the region.

Specialised in deal negotiation, contract drafting, litigation strategy, IP portfolio management, legal project management, and policy work, Jelley joined Onfido in recent weeks as GC. The London-based start-up was established in 2015 after securing a £3m fund from backers of Spotify and Dropbox. It provides software which automates background checks allowing employers and companies to electronically vet potential job candidates.

Its founders, Husayn Kassai, Eamon Jubbawy, and Ruhul Amin, who all come with a financial services background after working at Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi respectively, this year raised another $25m to meet demand.

Recent mandates by Jelley at Google included dealing with the upsurge in data and tax laws, and addressing the EU data transfer deal with the US. She further led a team involved in high-profile charges levied by the European Commission that the search engine abused its dominant position to favour its own price comparison service.

Featured in Legal Business’s 2014 GC Power List, Jelley was described by one commercial disputes lawyer at a leading UK law firm at the time as ‘incredibly impressive, she has an enormous remit and handles it with humour, grace and a fierce intellect’.

The former Lovells lawyer was also seconded to pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline in 2004 and luxury fashion house Gucci in 2006 during her time in private practice.

Other in-house names recruited by start-ups this year included easyJet’s longstanding head of legal and compliance, Andrew Winterton, who joined taxi app Karoo as the company planned to raise more than $1bn in order to compete with Uber.

Significant recruits within in-house of late includes Standard Chartered which hired top regulatory lawyer Chris Allen from Barclays’ legal team. He is set to join the investment bank in January as its new GC for clients and products.