From monkey to organ grinder – assessing the modern in-house team

From monkey to organ grinder – assessing the modern in-house team

Sabine Chalmers was concerned about coming back to the UK. Absent for more than two decades, most recently in the US as chief legal and corporate affairs officer at drinks giant Anheuser-Busch InBev, she had built a reputation as one of the leading lights of the general counsel (GC) community. But when she first left the UK, the GC role lacked stature, particularly in contrast to the US. ‘I was concerned about how a UK role would compare to the experience I’d had in the US.’

But she did return in 2018, to one of the most senior legal roles in the UK – BT group GC. ‘It’s been encouraging and interesting because the role of the GC has grown. They sit at the top table and report to the chief executive, they have the compliance and company secretary hats: that’s great for the function.’ Continue reading “From monkey to organ grinder – assessing the modern in-house team”

Shake it all about: in-house versus external advisers

Shake it all about: in-house versus external advisers

Alongside the oft-spouted rhetoric of ‘more for less’, in-house lawyers are more frequently bringing work in-house and trying to wean themselves off external advisers and panels. In our survey, 85% said their company has a policy of retaining more matters in-house to reduce legal spend. When asked the same question in 2015, only 70% of GCs responded the same way.

Matt Wilson, Uber’s associate GC for the EMEA region, says that when he joined the ride-hailing app in 2017 around 75% of the company’s legal budget was being spent externally. For 2018, Wilson estimates that figure is around 58%. ‘We’re working through next year’s budget at the moment; I would love to get it to around 50%.’ Continue reading “Shake it all about: in-house versus external advisers”

The MBA all-stars: training and development for GCs

The MBA all-stars: training and development for GCs

In-house legal teams have become more sophisticated over the last 20 years but, according to many general counsel (GCs), the pressure to widen their skillsets over the next decade is intense.

For Pearson GC Bjarne Tellmann, the roundedness of the modern in-house lawyer starts with the training they receive, but he laments a hole in the market. He sends his trainees to receive mini-MBAs or ‘executive MBA-style training’ from a range of institutions, including Deloitte University. Oxford and Harvard also provide mini-MBAs. Continue reading “The MBA all-stars: training and development for GCs”

Legal ops of horrors

Legal ops of horrors

Despite clear progression in the use of non-legal business professionals within in-house teams, general counsel (GCs) often still see ‘legal ops’ as more buzzword than beneficial.

There have been successes. Mo Ajaz is the highly-regarded chief operating officer (COO) at National Grid and, according to GC Alison Kay, he is vital in driving efficiencies. ‘We have a drive to make us much more business friendly and to act more like a business, as well as bringing in tech. We know which outside vendors to look to when it comes to tech.’ Continue reading “Legal ops of horrors”

Assault on the alt: GCs on the new law providers

Assault on the alt: GCs on the new law providers

For all the rampant spin around alternative legal suppliers, it is safe to say general counsel (GCs) have been less than satisfied with their services.

Trainline GC Neil Murrin has few qualms around the quality of the people the likes of Axiom, Lawyers On Demand (LOD) and Obelisk provide, but finds pricing a sticking point. He has used Axiom and LOD for various one-off projects over the last year: ‘They provide very good people. Everyone they’ve sent has been really high calibre. If you want to bring in someone yourself, you have to interview thousands of people, but they do that filtering for you.’ Continue reading “Assault on the alt: GCs on the new law providers”

Under the influence – how pressure to climb the ladder can corrupt in-house counsel

Under the influence – how pressure to climb the ladder can corrupt in-house counsel

Being risk savvy and commercially aware is the equivalent of ‘leaning in’ for today’s in-house lawyer. Can one do this and retain the mantle of professionalism? Or rather, how can one do that? That is the central concern of our book, In-House Lawyers’ Ethics: Institutional Logics, Legal Risk and the Tournament of Influence. We interviewed dozens of in-house lawyers and surveyed 400, mainly from business but also from government and the third sector, to shed light on the ethical dimensions of in-house practice and risk management. Our central lessons? Organisations matter. Individual lawyers matter. Ideas about the in-house role and professionalism matter. Talking about professionalism and good decision making openly and frankly matters.

The usual academic analysis of in-house lawyers dwells on concerns that in-house counsel are business people first and lawyers a distant second, but we think other questions are more important and useful. In particular, we are interested in how in-house roles and practitioner mindsets about those roles influence their ethical inclination. When we work with in-house teams using the tools in our book, they are often astonished at the different views they and their colleagues have about what in-house lawyers should be like; how they draw on ideas of professionalism; and how to deal with ethical dilemmas. Gordon Gekko can be lurking in the most surprising of places. Continue reading “Under the influence – how pressure to climb the ladder can corrupt in-house counsel”

Client profile: Matt Wilson, Uber

Client profile: Matt Wilson, Uber

‘I wrote my own resignation letter twice in the first six months,’ Matt Wilson, Uber’s associate general counsel (GC) for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, says. ‘I didn’t hand it in either time, but it was close.’

A frank, but not surprising, admission. Wilson has, in the view of one peer, had one of the most difficult jobs in the GC community since he became the ridesharing company’s first domestic UK lawyer back in 2015. Continue reading “Client profile: Matt Wilson, Uber”

Point break – The extreme measures of Barclays’ adviser review

Point break – The extreme measures of Barclays’ adviser review

Legal spend is the second-largest ‘cost centre’ for £21bn global banking giant Barclays. This tantalising statement is in the bank’s 2018 Request for Quotation document, sent to law firms ahead of its final panel review this year and seen by Legal Business. The document provides detail on what Barclays describes as this ‘sizeable’ legal spend.

In the 18 months to January this year, for instance, around 35% of its legal budget was spent internally in running an in-house legal department that dwarfs many major law firms at more than 750 staff. The rest was spent externally, about half in the Americas and just over a third in the UK. Continue reading “Point break – The extreme measures of Barclays’ adviser review”

The team in I: The GC Powerlist Summer Reception

The team in I: The GC Powerlist Summer Reception

Nailing the issue of what makes a high-performing in-house function, with the emphasis on operational sophistication, has become the Holy Grail for general counsel (GCs). Following the launch earlier this year of the 2018 GC Powerlist – which highlighted 50 leading in-house teams – we teamed up with headline sponsor Eversheds Sutherland to assemble an audience of more than 70 in-house counsel at The Ned. This featured an informal discussion between our panel of senior lawyers and operations staff working at some of the biggest multinationals. The debate covered the introduction of legal operations specialists, the advance of technology and widening the skills of in-house functions, all geared towards creating more effective and nimble teams.

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