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New Johnson Controls EMEA legal head to review Eversheds sole adviser deal following restructure

David Symonds, EMEA general counsel (GC) for merged entity Johnson Controls International (JCI), is leading a restructure of the company’s legal function following the completion of the $16.5bn combination of Johnson Controls and Tyco International in September.

The new structure will involve lawyers arranged on a country basis, with a ‘virtual centre of excellence’, which includes a contract management group in Cork, a commercial transactions team and litigation team in Brussels, and a labour and employment counsel based in Manchester. Some lawyers will work as ‘business partners’ in more strategic roles.

Symonds has put forward a proposal to JCI’s human resources and finance teams to approve the structure, and confirm that savings made will be consistent with expectations.

Speaking to Legal Business, Symonds said: ‘We will become one team. Legacy Tyco lawyers will be expected to go out and familiarise themselves with the legacy JCI businesses, and support them and vice versa. One of the targets I am looking to set by the financial year 2017 is to demonstrate that we are one fully-integrated team.’

At present there are 50 staff in the EMEA legal team, including administrative assistants, paralegals and contract managers in addition to qualified lawyers, with Symonds anticipating that number could reduce further once the new structure beds down.

Tyco’s sole-adviser arrangement with Eversheds will remain in place until September 2017 and it is understood that Symonds is hoping to keep that structure in place following a review across EMEA in the new year, although he added that this may not necessarily be with Eversheds.

Previously, both legacy businesses operated with distinct cultures and legal teams, with legacy Tyco preferring a decentralised structure, with lawyers in each country supporting and working across all of the different businesses. Tyco, which has operated on a sole-adviser mandate with Eversheds since 2007, also had several subject matter experts as well as lawyers who supported the different businesses in the region at a strategic level as ‘business partners’, but in addition to other roles.

Meanwhile, the legacy Johnson Controls legal team operated a business partner system, with a lawyer looking after all of Europe for one part of the business, and a centralised team in Brussels that handled commercial transactions, litigation and corporate secretarial.

The biggest changes include the fact that the centralised legal team is no longer based in Brussels, with Symonds preferring a virtual approach. In addition, the centre of excellence will no longer include corporate secretarial, which will be based outside the regional legal remit.