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Simmons & Simmons creates general counsel position to ‘prevent unpleasant surprises’

City firm Simmons & Simmons has created a general counsel (GC) post, filled by UK employment chief Simon Watson, to handle the firm’s regulatory obligations, partner relations and litigation.

Watson, who assumes the role on 1 May 2016, will vacate his roles as UK and international head of employment, pensions and incentives to become Simmons & Simmons’ first GC. Replacements for his current roles are yet to be announced.

With the firm having closed its Abu Dhabi and Rome offices in the past year, Watson will review the current structure of the business. ‘We’re a unified partnership but, mostly because of regulatory responsibilities, we have different entities in different regions,’ Watson told Legal Business. ‘I will analyse whether our current structure works as effectively as it can and that we are as tightly managed as we can be.’

Watson will take responsibility for all risk management, including regulatory management, conflict management and insurance, and become the focal point for office openings and closures as well as partner arrivals and exits. ‘Were the firm to ever do a merger the legal issues as to how the merger was accomplished and the agreements giving legal effect to a merger would also be my responsibility,’ he added.

‘Hopefully what the creation of the GC role does, like any legal advice, is to prevent unpleasant surprises. Of course, the doing of business involves risk, but you’d rather know the risks in advance rather than confront them before it’s too late. Legal advice works best when there is a trusting relationship so more than just the legal issues get bounced off someone. I understand the history of Simmons & Simmons and that will help me frame my advice.’

The overhaul of governance at the firm follows the resignation of the firm’s director of risk management, Chris Andrews.

Simmons managing partner Jeremy Hoyland added: ‘Simon’s extensive experience as a leading lawyer, as well as his commercial acumen, will be invaluable in shaping the ways we do business in an increasingly complex environment. As the firm’s first general counsel, he will be integral to the future development of the firm.’