- Group general counsel and company secretary: Adrian de Souza.
- Team headcount: eight lawyers.
Due to the nature of the industry, in-house real estate teams are traditionally smaller than most, tending to gift significant mandates to their chosen counsel. Group GC Adrian de Souza and his high functioning team at FTSE 100 company Land Securities outsource about 99% of their legal work, typically spending in the region of £15m-£20m externally.
‘The team here know their roles really well,’ comments de Souza. ‘They don’t do external lawyers’ work and they don’t do the business person’s work, but they
act as a seamless conjugate between the two. Every single sale for Land Securities has a bespoke legal agreement attached to it. Legal is right at the heart of our business and a relatively small legal team makes sure the work is done on a consistent and high-quality basis.’
One way in which the team ensures high-quality output is treating external lawyers as an extension of the in-house team, bringing them into the business and familiarising them with its specific model. Alongside this, the team also has an unusual market-shaping programme of identifying and supporting the rising stars in real estate practices across its law firms, safeguarding against a possible shortage of star lawyers in the years to come.
Like many in-house teams, the legal department at Land Securities does not think much of hourly rates, instead taking direct responsibly for driving the efficiency of its panel firms. Head of legal Alex Peeke, says: ‘Conventionally in real estate you are budgeting as a percentage of the transaction amount.’
The team’s highlights over the last year include the acquisition of a controlling stake in the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent – bought from Lend Lease Corporation for just under £700m, as well as the £1bn development of the iconic Walkie Talkie building, together with the Canary Wharf Group, which was 90% let at completion when it opened towards the end of 2014. But the team is arguably at its most effective around Victoria, where Land Securities is currently putting up around £2bn worth of buildings. It also has planning permission for a new residential tower worth over £1bn – the conversion of an office block, which is the tallest building in the area.