Legal Business

Client profile: Julie Smyth, BAE Systems Air

Client profile: Julie Smyth, BAE Systems Air

‘My husband has virtually no understanding of what I do,’ admits BAE Systems Air chief counsel Julie Smyth. ‘He thinks I sit in meetings all day.’

Secrecy and security at the £18bn defence multinational is paramount. Its mammoth Warton airfield base, which dominates the village of the same name a short drive from Preston, is classified as a ‘List X’ site, meaning it can hold UK Government information considered ‘secret’ and above.

Legal Business

GC Perspectives – Philip Bramwell, BAE Systems

GC Perspectives – Philip Bramwell, BAE Systems

I’m of an age where I form part of a group of lawyers who elected to pursue careers in-house from the outside. I had failed to complete a chemical engineering course so I had a very clear purpose in studying law: I wanted to work in-house. I identified a couple of industries I thought should grow so I might surf that wave.

I started out in pharma in the late ‘70s, which was immensely enjoyable. I grew a love of complex businesses – global, multinational businesses. They provide rich opportunities for lawyers in a variety of areas – commercial, corporate, M&A. That is the theme I followed throughout my career.

Legal Business

BAE Systems

BAE Systems
  • Group general counsel: Philip Bramwell.
  • Team headcount: 130 lawyers.

A FTSE 100 company, which is the third-largest defence group in the world and has more than 100,000 employees globally, needs a strong and varied in-house team. Fortunately, the legal department at BAE Systems has grown substantially since Philip Bramwell’s arrival in 2006 – legal has doubled and compliance has quadrupled during that time, while litigation costs have fallen 80%.

The shape of the team has also been overhauled, from a flat structure to one which has specialised capability and central management, with chief counsel in key areas of business. BAE’s legal team also operates a cab-rank model, first introduced into the UK in 2007, in which lawyers are available on a first-come-first-served basis. This initiative has been rolled out to other major markets, including Asia and the Middle East.

The team has formal training and development initiatives. For example, there is a clearly defined and detailed ‘matrix’ in place by which its junior lawyers are assessed and managed from two years’ post-qualification experience right up to GC level.

Significant mandates for the team in recent years include the high-profile, long-running competition investigation by US prosecutors and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) over a £6bn arms deal – Al Yamamah – with Saudi Arabia.

In 2010, there was a rare panel overhaul, with Magic Circle firms Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Allen & Overy and Linklaters making the cut, as well as Herbert Smith Freehills, Addleshaw Goddard, Pinsent Masons, Blake Lapthorn and Eversheds. After the team’s compliance and regulation chief counsel Mark Serfozo left for Rolls-Royce in July 2013, Bramwell appointed BAE’s global head of dispute resolution, Joanna Talbot, to identify trends that give rise to disputes in order to troubleshoot at an early stage. Bramwell himself remains one of the most highly regarded GCs in the UK.

Legal Business

The Client: Philip Bramwell – BAE Systems

The Client: Philip Bramwell – BAE Systems

Caroline Hill talks to the plain-speaking general counsel

When BAE Systems’ group general counsel (GC) Philip Bramwell started out as a lawyer in the pharmaceuticals industry, his mother approved on the basis that ‘everybody gets sick’. But as the assertive corporate veteran set out on the deliberate path to change industry every few years, she was less convinced by his switch from BT to O2 in 2001, observing that mobile phones were somewhere between a brick and a car battery and ‘no-one would be so rude as to walk around talking on them’.

Legal Business

BAE international: defence giant rolls out UK cab rank model to Asia and ME

BAE international: defence giant rolls out UK cab rank model to Asia and ME

With the UK’s investment in defence broadly flat British defence giant BAE Systems is looking increasingly to the international markets for growth and its legal team is morphing with it.

This month, BAE’s 250-strong legal team, which counts the company’s 100,000-plus employees as its clients, rolled out its UK cab rank model – under which a pool of lawyers is available on a first-come-first-served basis – to Asia and the Middle East.

Peter Cawley, formerly Chief Counsel for India, has relocated to Kuala Lumpur to head up the new initiative, known internally as the legal hub concept, the scale of which will be demand driven according to group general counsel Philip Bramwell.

Bramwell, who introduced the legal hub concept to the UK shortly after his arrival in 2006 as part of a major drive to overhaul the legal department, said: ‘Rolling out the legal hub concept that we currently use in the UK to both Asia and the Middle East will create reservoirs of capability closer to the business in distance and time.

‘Today, with UK taxpayer funded spending on defence broadly flat, BAE Systems will look increasingly to exports for growth. The legal department needs to demonstrate the agility necessary to support that growth, flexing its organisational model to reflect the changing needs of the business.’

The hub model gives often younger lawyers the opportunity to take on a range of projects in different jurisdictions, which can provide additional career opportunities in the business.

Since Bramwell took over officially from outgoing veteran legal head Michael Lester in 2007, he has more than doubled the legal team to 250 and quadrupled compliance to 100, which now sits within legal.

Last month, BAE Systems compliance and regulation chief counsel Mark Serfozo moved to Rolls-Royce as director of risk after nearly 20 years at the defence, security and aerospace giant. Former head of dispute resolution, Joanna Talbot, has taken over that role.

caroline.hill@legalease.co.uk