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NRF hires the mind behind Barclays radical panel shake-up to launch legal ops consulting arm

Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) is making an ‘offensive move’ against the Big Four on legal operations consulting with the hire of the well-regarded former Barclays’ head of external engagement, Stéphanie Hamon (pictured).

The firm announced today (9 July) that Hamon, who quit the bank earlier this year, will join as a fee-earner in August to head the new practice and help ‘in-house departments function like a business’.

Part of the firm’s innovation programme NRF Transform, the new practice will operate with no hourly rates, and Hamon told Legal Business NRF’s openness to alternative fee arrangements was one of the main factors in her decision to join the firm.

A long-time supporter of reshaping law firm-client relationships, during her three years at Barclays Hamon led the bank’s move to phase out conventional legal panels in favour of a system of ongoing management of its legal counsel from mid-2021.

NRF’s new practice aims to both assist companies set up a legal operations function and help those which already have one on specific projects. It will initially target UK clients but could soon look to expand into continental Europe, Australia and the US.

‘There is a growing need in the market for legal operations advice and there are not many people delivering it,’ said Hamon. ‘The good thing about my position at Barclays was that I was meeting with all law firms and suppliers. NRF quickly became the front-runner because of their forward thinking strategy. They want to service clients in a more holistic way.’

She added: ‘If you ask ten people what legal ops is you will get ten different answers. In my view it is all that helps [GCs] run their legal department like a business. From analytics, demonstrating the value your team can bring to the company, to pricing and relationship management. Some companies already have legal ops teams but the level of maturity can be very different.’

Hamon would not specify how many people will form her new practice beyond saying it was still very much in a ‘start-up mind-set’ and would initially draw on existing resources within the firm before recruiting.

Asked whether it would be challenging to convince companies to instruct a law firm to get help with a function that is ultimately aimed at reducing their legal spend, she said: ‘When you are on the buy-side it is not so much about cutting costs. It is about getting value for money, demonstrating you are getting the right price for the service. Part of the work is about how you drive efficiency.’

She added: ‘It is more an offensive move than a defensive move: if the Big Four can move from consulting into legal advice, why can’t a law firm move from legal advice into consulting?’

Hamon has some experience with private practice. Before joining Barclays in December 2015 she was head of international business development and client service at King & Wood Mallesons for three years. In the 2000s and early 2010s she held several business management roles at Clifford Chance.

Her move to NRF comes after the firm slowed down its international expansion and suffered several losses both in London and abroad.

Last month it lost a ten-lawyer City insurance team to Kennedys in January it pulled out of Venezuela – its 26-lawyer local practice joining Dentons – while last year it closed in Kazakhstan and Abu Dhabi and lost its Tokyo corporate team to Paul Hastings. In July 2018, it lost one of its most senior London partners in the form of veteran litigator, Sam Eastwood, who quit after three decades to join Mayer Brown.

For more on Barclay’s adviser review during Hamon’s tenure, see Point Break (£)