Between the reams of paper (literal and virtual) spent discussing how technology will affect the legal profession and the thousands of legal tech companies springing up around the world, technology is on the minds of in-house teams of all sizes and sectors.
But often what is not communicated is how in-house counsel feel about the technological revolution hitting their profession, and how their teams and businesses have responded, if at all. Continue reading “State of play – In-house tech perspectives”
Living at the home of an ancient babushka. Rubbing shoulders with bodyguards on share acquisition deals. Arranging licensing deals so that The Muppets characters can appear on ice cream wrappers in Russia. ‘It’s been a fascinating and varied 25 years of practice, made deeply rich by the experience of different people and their different ways,’ Kingfisher legal director Elizabeth Messud says. ‘There has been many a modest cliff hanger in all I have done.’
That career has taken Messud from Toronto to a collective farm in rural Russia, to Moscow, then to London, via stints in Spain, France and Switzerland. It has also seen her work for one of the biggest companies in the world, Nestlé, as well as the finance arm of the World Bank, a Russian oligarch and, now, FTSE 100 retailer Kingfisher. Continue reading “The Client Profile: Elizabeth Messud, Kingfisher”
‘I have never instructed a Big Four firm on a legal matter,’ says one UK general counsel (GC) of a large multinational. ‘The accountants’ legal offering is not something I’m close to,’ concedes Tesco GC Adrian Morris. The respective legal chiefs at The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Lloyds Banking Group strike a similar note: ‘We don’t currently use any of them,’ says Michael Shaw, while Kate Cheetham notes: ‘Our use of these offerings is quite limited.’
Canvassing 20 GCs for this piece – including ten from the FTSE 100 – found only four had used the Big Four’s legal services. Continue reading “The Big Four meets GCs – The hard sell”
Gloria Sánchez Soriano, head of transformation – legal department, Santander
When our group general counsel (GC), Óscar García Maceiras, joined two years ago, he came with the idea of transforming the legal department. But Santander as a business is also in a huge process of transformation. Maceiras had a concern that we in our legal department in the market – and in many other legal departments – were working the same way as 100 years ago. We have legal databases, word processing, some digital resources – but we were not doing anything special. So the project he envisioned was not only to implement a range of technologies, but to foster a savvier legal department, with fewer pain points and better co-ordination and efficiency. Continue reading “Three GC perspectives on change”
Bank of England (BoE) general counsel (GC) Sonya Branch puffs her cheeks as she ponders how much work Brexit has created for her team. ‘It has been absolutely vast,’ she says.
About 65% of the UK central bank’s legal team, which has grown from 90 to more than 150 since she joined four years ago, has been involved since the mid-2016 referendum in reviewing about 10,000 pages of legislation and tracking 39 statutory instruments, to which it has contributed drafting. ‘The total count was 6,000 pages of binding technical standards, 6,000 rules that had to be changed, as well as 4,000 pages of secondary legislation,’ she comments. ‘That’s just having a regulatory framework for the UK financial services sector that’s fit for purpose on the point of exit.’ Continue reading “The Client Profile: Sonya Branch, Bank of England”
Any lawyer of a certain vintage can recall the dawn of the BlackBerry age, the watershed moment at the turn of the Millennium that meant you could always be on call. It was a blessing and a curse.
But the initial freedom of being able to work anywhere at any time has become a crippling 24/7 expectation for some, with the inability to ‘switch off’ being an oft-cited issue. Continue reading “No alarms and no surprises – Behind the Mindful Business Charter”
When looking for good in the world, corporate governance law is not the most obvious place to train your eye. However, there is a sizeable band of corporations – thousands, in fact – who have opted to start just there, using corporate governance as a springboard to the greater good.
Shareholder primacy, often cast as the villain in corporate scandals or blinkered business decisions, operates on the theory that the job of directors and management is to maximise returns to investors. In turn, corporate law is traditionally viewed as a contract between corporations and investors that the company will, in the balance of law, deliver the highest return. Continue reading “Corporations with benefits – Assessing the rise of US public benefit companies”
I have always been attracted to public service. A number of my colleagues from my time at Gibson Dunn had gone on to serve as solicitors general in state attorney generals’ offices. Those offices provide unparalleled opportunities, such as the chance to argue appeals and challenge areas in which the federal government has exceeded its powers and placed onerous regulatory requirements on the state. So I was very grateful to have been offered the opportunity to work in the West Virginia solicitor general’s office.
In 2017, I became the general counsel (GC) of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). I am primarily responsible for two components – reviewing Commission rules and orders to ensure they are legally sustainable, and defending those actions in court. I also oversee units that deal with fraud and bankruptcy issues, as well as various internal issues like employment matters. In West Virginia, I supervised four or five attorneys at any given time. Now, I oversee a team of more than 70 lawyers, so I’ve had to focus a lot more on learning how best to allocate my time and how best to delegate. Continue reading “Tom Johnson, Federal Communications Commission”
Chicago-born Christine Dekker’s decade-long run as legal counsel for McDonald’s has seen her relocate from the US to Shanghai for work in 2014 on a gamble that paid career dividends, ultimately earning her the role of general counsel (GC) for the UK and Ireland three years later.
As vice president-GC for the restaurant chain’s Chinese market, Dekker had played a prominent role in handling the sale of a $2bn equity interest in the China and Hong Kong business to strategic investors. In Shanghai she ran a team of 23 lawyers but also found time to travel to smaller Chinese cities, not to mention visit the odd local potato farm. Continue reading “The Client Profile: Christine Dekker, McDonald’s”