The Client profile: Sharon Blackman, Citi

The Client profile: Sharon Blackman, Citi

While she is loath to admit it, Sharon Blackman, managing director and general counsel in Citi’s global legal affairs and compliance division, ‘hated’ her law degree. Clearly this has not held her back though, as her GC of the Year gong at the Legal Business Awards in September testifies.

Despite not falling in love with the law at an academic level, during her degree, Blackman took on pro bono work at her local Citizens Advice Bureau, and it was there that her passion was first ignited. She recalls: ‘It was really useful for developing the practical piece and I found that much more engaging than just the theoretical piece.’ Continue reading “The Client profile: Sharon Blackman, Citi”

The Client profile: Claire Holdsworth, Marathon Asset Management

The Client profile: Claire Holdsworth, Marathon Asset Management

‘Frankly, what’s a boardroom compared to a regiment of soldiers?!’ Claire Holdsworth is philosophical about her journey from army officer to motorbike-riding GC of Marathon Asset Management.

Some say getting your foot in the door of a top law firm is often the hardest part for aspiring lawyers, but Holdsworth’s journey to her training contract interview definitely casts that sentiment in a whole new light. Continue reading “The Client profile: Claire Holdsworth, Marathon Asset Management”

The general counsel debate: Walking the talk

The general counsel debate: Walking the talk

Clare Francis, Pinsent Masons: We want to look at the change agenda and what that means for GCs, especially given the unprecedented events that have hit us over the last two or three years which have really disrupted business. Given that our clients are looking at things differently, having different priorities in the boardroom, and seeking to make progress in areas such as ESG and D&I [diversity and inclusion], it will be interesting in our debate to look at how that flows through into what you expect from law firms. To kick off, we thought it would be good to start by asking, what is high up on your priority list today and how have you seen that evolve over the last few years?

David Eveleigh, Serco: Definitely ESG. We at Serco do defence and immigration; if you take defence, this has been an area some investors have been reluctant to be associated with. You have this horrible situation with Russia and Ukraine now, and defence can suddenly be seen as a social good – you have funds that would never invest in defence, now saying defence stocks are investable. ESG analysts and investors may have a very different approach; one will say we are good while another will say we are awful based on the same data. It is probably the variability of ESG that is the biggest issue for us as a company and trying to understand, ‘What should you publish? What should you not publish?’ Continue reading “The general counsel debate: Walking the talk”

The Client profile: Dan Kayne, O Shaped

The Client profile: Dan Kayne, O Shaped

Some people go into law with dreams of changing the world, but for Dan Kayne that came much later.

In fact, he admits he fell into the profession almost by accident. ‘I honestly went to university to do a law degree not really knowing why, except that it was clearly a very good degree to have. Then I started applying for training contracts, like many of my peers did, towards the end of my time at law school and I got a series of interviews down in London.’ Continue reading “The Client profile: Dan Kayne, O Shaped”

The Client profile: Wayne Spillett, Vodafone

The Client profile: Wayne Spillett, Vodafone

Unlike some flightier in-house counsel, Vodafone’s head of legal for commercial operations, IP and corporate secretariat, Wayne Spillett, has stayed loyal to the company for close to 13 years. After a lengthy conversation, it is easy to see why.

Spillett studied both English and French law at the University of Exeter, developing a keen interest in EU law. The logical next step was a training contract at Lovells, where he qualified as a competition lawyer working out of both the firm’s London and Paris offices. Continue reading “The Client profile: Wayne Spillett, Vodafone”

The Client profile: easyJet

The Client profile: easyJet

‘The pandemic hit the airline sector hard and fast. We went from really being in growth mode, preparing forward-looking projects and a successful year in 2020, to very quickly having to ground our fleet almost overnight. We then had to deal with the implications of that for the company, which were severe,’ says Rebecca Mills, deputy general counsel (GC) of easyJet.

For most companies 2020 was a struggle but the airline sector, and easyJet specifically, was hit harder than most. Dealing with grounded flights, plummeting profits and a high-profile data breach, its General Counsel’s Office (GCO) went into overdrive. Continue reading “The Client profile: easyJet”

The Client profile: Elisabeth Sullivan, Waterstones

The Client profile: Elisabeth Sullivan, Waterstones

While some discover an aptitude for law while at university, others have it in their veins. According to Elisabeth Sullivan, recently installed as general counsel (GC) of book retailer Waterstones, she very much falls into the latter category.

‘People always told me since I was a kid I should be a lawyer because I had a “strong sense of justice”. Probably after I had some big tantrum!’ Continue reading “The Client profile: Elisabeth Sullivan, Waterstones”

The Client profile: Sarah Holford, Scania UK

The Client profile: Sarah Holford, Scania UK

Shortly after completing the Legal Practice Course, Sarah Holford was looking for somewhere to kick-start her career. An opportunity presented itself at Games Workshop, the British manufacturer of miniature wargames, with space-themed Warhammer 40,000 among its best-known products.

‘I’m not a hobbyist but I am a big sci-fi and fantasy geek, so I knew of them. When I saw the role, I thought “yeah, I can go for this,”’ Sarah reminisces. ‘I have a lot of friends that are into Warhammer, gaming and Dungeons & Dragons, so seeing the role I knew it would be a cool place to work.’

Continue reading “The Client profile: Sarah Holford, Scania UK”

Braced for impact: GCs on the threat of group actions and collective redress

Braced for impact: GCs on the threat of group actions and collective redress

In April, Legal Business spoke to dozens of disputes counsel in private practice to ascertain the salient trends in contentious law. Near-universally, at the forefront of minds was an imminent and drastic increase in the volume of class actions and other group claims. Now, the in-house community has added its own wave of concerned voices.

A perfect storm of legal changes and market conditions have brought us to this point. In the UK for example, the seeds were planted in 2015 with the introduction of the Consumer Rights Act, which allowed UK consumers to seek collective redress on competition cases in a US-style class action system. Since then several class action claims have formed, among the most notable being the mammoth truck cartel case, in which thousands of individual and corporate claimants are pursuing damages from several of Europe’s biggest truck manufacturers over price collusion spanning multiple years. Continue reading “Braced for impact: GCs on the threat of group actions and collective redress”