Legal Business

The big call from BT to MP

The big call from BT to MP

Darren Jones discusses leaving his role at telecoms giant BT to sit in the UK Parliament

Many were surprised when Darren Jones was elected Labour MP for Bristol North West – none more so than Jones himself. Except for, perhaps, his boss at BT Legal.

Legal Business

BT concludes delayed panel review with 37 firms including Magic Circle heavyweights winning places

BT concludes delayed panel review with 37 firms including Magic Circle heavyweights winning places

BT has concluded its long-awaited UK and Ireland panel review, with a raft of Magic Circle firms including Allen & Overy, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Clifford Chance and Linklaters winning places on the extended roster.

The review, which was officially kicked off last July, when tender documents were sent out, also saw Addleshaw Goddard, Baker McKenzie, Berwin Leighton Paisner, CMS Cameron McKenna and Eversheds Sutherland named as advisers.

The new panel, which will run for three years until April 2020, was overseen by BT’s director, equality of access office & COO Legal Governance and Compliance, Jon Furmston and central operations head of suppliers and systems Keith Thomson. Both Thomson and Furmston took over from BT’s group director of ethics and compliance Gareth Tipton, who was originally overseeing the review alongside a project team.

The review was originally supposed to be wrapped up by September/October last year after which the company planned to kick start a review to create its first (non-UK) international legal panel.

BT’s previous roster compromised Bird & Bird, CMS, Freshfields, Wiggin and Sheridans. There were also arrangements with alternative legal providers Obelisk, Axiom, Halebury and SSQ Interim Solutions. BT is expected to continue an informal relationship with alternative providers.

Last November Legal Business revealed BT had started a wide-reaching strategic review on how to change its internal structure to bring its lawyers closer to the business.

The legal department, which was one of the first in-house teams to obtain an alternative business structure licence and launch its now long-running and legal process outsourcing venture, was also working out a strategy for the procurement process and assessing its external spend with its traditional and non-law firm service providers. At the time general counsel for UK commercial legal services, Chris Fowler, said the upcoming panel would be more ‘nuanced’ and firms would be categorised under ‘capacity’ and ‘expertise’.

kathryn.mccann@legalease.co.uk

The full list is as follows:

Addleshaw Goddard

Allen & Overy

ASB Law

Baker McKenzie

Berwin Leighton Paisner

Bird & Bird

Bond Dickinson

Burges Salmon

Carter-Ruck

Cleaver Fulton Rankin

Clifford Chance

DAC Beachcroft

CMS Cameron McKenna

DWF

Ernst & Young

Eversheds Sutherland

Fieldfisher

Fragomen

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

Gateley

Kemp Little

Lewis Silkin

Linklaters

Mason Hayes & Curran

Matheson

MSI Global Alliance

Napier & Sons Solicitors

Onside Law

Osborne Clarke

Reed Smith

Shepherd & Wedderburn

Simmons & Simmons

TLT

Trowers & Hamlins

Tughans

Winckworth Sherwood

Wright Hassall

Legal Business

Quinn prepares to mount shareholder claim against BT following accounting scandal

Quinn prepares to mount shareholder claim against BT following accounting scandal

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan is investigating a potential class action against BT on behalf of its shareholders following an accounting scandal which saw almost £8bn, or more than a fifth, wiped off the telco’s stock value.

BT Group originally estimated a write-down of £145m last year citing ‘inappropriate management behaviour’ in its Italian business. The company later revised the figure to £530m in its third quarter results following an independent review by KPMG.

Quinn is speaking to its Volkswagen and RBS clients which are all major institutional investors and is looking to begin damages analysis.

It has not yet been decided whether it will be a funded case or whether Quinn will bring this as a Damages Based Agreement, where the shareholders will agree to pay the lawyer a percentage of sums recovered in a claim.

Quinn’s team on the case includes partners Ted Greeno, Richard East and Hamburg partner Nadine Herman. The team expects it will take around two to three months to put a claim together.

East (pictured) told Legal Business: ‘It’s very likely that a lot of our clients on the VW claim will have holdings in BT stock. These are large institutional investors and they will have an exposure to BT undoubtedly.’

Quinn is considering whether there is case under a section 90 of the Financial Services and Markets Act which provides for shareholder group actions or if there are other common law claims arising out of the accounting scandal.

Separately, litigation funder Bentham Europe also confirmed it opened talks with BT shareholders in October. However Bentham declined to comment on whether it had instructed legal counsel.

In 2015 Quinn was instructed by Bentham in a shareholder lawsuit against Volkswagen after the company lost as much as $33bn in market value in ten days after it admitted to cheating emissions tests. The US firm also teamed up with consumer rights firm Hagens Berman to file a class action complaint in Los Angeles.

Late last year claimants represented by Quinn settled their case in the long running £4bn shareholder group action against the Royal Bank of Scotland.

madeleine.farman@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

BT kicks off panel review following Brexit delay

BT kicks off panel review following Brexit delay

BT has kicked off a formal panel review for its UK legal advisers after a five month delay and will create a separate international panel for the first time later this year.

BT, which houses a 400 strong in-house team led by group general counsel Dan Fitz, was due to start reviewing its UK legal roster in March. However the process has only begun this week as the company was awaiting the results of the Brexit vote.

Officially starting today (20 July) the review is being led by BT’s chief operating officer for legal, Gareth Tipton, alongside a project team after a tender document was circulated to firms in first round submissions.

The latest review is expected to be wrapped up by September/October after which the company will kick start a review to create its first (non-UK) international legal panel.

Its current core roster, which was set in 2013 for three-years, comprises Bird & Bird, CMS Cameron McKenna, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Wiggin and Sheridans. There are also arrangements with alternative legal providers Obelisk, Axiom, Halebury and SSQ Interim Solutions. BT is expected to continue an informal relationship with alternative providers.

In early November Legal Business revealed BT had started a wide-reaching strategic review on how to change its internal structure to bring its lawyers closer to the business.

The legal department, which was one of the first in-house teams to obtain an alternative business structure licence and launch its now long-running and legal process outsourcing venture, was also working out a strategy for the procurement process and assessing its external spend with its traditional and non-law firm service providers. At the time general counsel for UK commercial legal services, Chris Fowler, said the upcoming panel would be more ‘nuanced’ and firms would be categorised under ‘capacity’ and ‘expertise’.

Other high-profile panel reviews of late includes Dixons Carphone which saw eleven advisers including Freshfields, DLA Piper, Pinsent Masons and Addleshaw Goddard win places on the company’s inaugural panel following its recent £3.8bn merger. Barclays also gifted Clifford Chance, Ashurst, Simmons & Simmons, Hogan Lovells and Reed Smith coveted spots on its overhauled its global roster in June and slashed its number of go-to advisers by over 60%.

sarah.downey@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

BT kicks off strategy review to overhaul internal function

BT kicks off strategy review to overhaul internal function

BT’s in-house legal team has begun a wide-reaching strategic review on how to change its internal structure to bring its lawyers closer to the business, while the telco also prepares for its next panel review.

Chris Fowler, general counsel (GC) for UK commercial legal services, said the review will see the team ‘centrally manage the legal resource (such as litigation and certain commercial functions) but keep senior lawyers as close as possible to individual business units to act as a business partner and meet their specific business needs’.

Led by group GC and company secretary Dan Fitz, BT’s legal team currently comprises 400 lawyers and paralegals.

The strategic review was derailed by the telecom giant’s proposed £12.5bn acquisition of mobile group EE during the summer. Fowler said that as a result the in-house team has not pursued its strategy as quickly as planned but the aim is to ‘manage the work around what people do rather than who they do it for.’

‘Each individual business unit within BT has different cost pressures. If we’re not careful these can be arbitrarily applied and undermine our ability to provide a consistent service therefore managing people by what they do allows us to mitigate and better manage peaks and troughs.’

The legal department, which was one of the first in-house teams to obtain an alternative business structure licence and launch its now long-running and legal process outsourcing venture, is also preparing for its panel review of external advisers, as the existing one is expected to expire in March 2016.

Its current core roster, which was set in 2013 for three-years, comprises Bird & Bird, CMS Cameron McKenna, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Wiggin and Sheridans. There are also arrangements with alternative legal providers Obelisk, Axiom, Halebury and SSQ Interim Solutions.

BT is working out a strategy for the procurement process and assessing its external spend with its traditional and non-law firm service providers. Fowler said the upcoming panel will be ‘more nuanced’ and firms will be categorised under ‘capacity’ and ‘expertise’.

‘In the past we haven’t articulated our buying strategy as fully as we could. What’s changed most notably is there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. It would be great if firms had more strategic conversations with us, otherwise it tends to be very tactical and matter-in-hand. It’s not often at a higher level. In the worst case, it’s a bit like having a talk with a plumber as opposed to an interior designer.’

BT has no minimum commitments to its external law firms and the panel is neither fixed nor exclusive. However, work fielded to external firms in the past has become increasingly more niche. In the GC Power List 2015 BT said its external legal spend was down 90% since 2010.

sarah.downey@legalease.co.uk

Read more on what GCs think of external advisers in ‘The In-House Lawyer Survey 2015: Balancing Acts: Bang for your buck’ here

Legal Business

BT kicks off strategy review to overhaul internal function

BT kicks off strategy review to overhaul internal function

BT’s in-house legal team has begun a wide-reaching strategic review on how to change its internal structure to bring its lawyers closer to the business, while the telco also prepares for its next panel review.

Chris Fowler, general counsel (GC) for UK commercial legal services, said the review will see the team ‘centrally manage the legal resource (such as litigation and certain commercial functions) but keep senior lawyers as close as possible to individual business units to act as a business partner and meet their specific business needs’.

Legal Business

BT

BT
  • Group general counsel and company secretary: Dan Fitz.
  • Team headcount: 400 lawyers including paralegals.

BT’s standout legal team, led by group general counsel (GC) Dan Fitz, along with a senior management team that includes chief operating officer and director of compliance and ethics, Gareth Tipton, and GC for UK commercial legal services, Chris Fowler, has long been ahead of the curve when it comes to innovation. Headlines include being one of the first in-house legal teams to obtain an alternative business structure licence and launching its now long-running and successful legal process outsourcing (LPO) venture. As a result, BT’s commercial external legal spend is down 90% since 2010.

Recent highlights for the team have included a landmark interim ruling from the Competition Appeal Tribunal against TV broadcaster BSkyB, which was ordered at the end of 2014 to make its sports channels available to rival BT, paving the way for BT’s YouView to air Sky Sports 1 and 2. Since moving aggressively into sports in 2012, BT’s legal team in 2013 helped to secure rights to broadcast the UEFA Champions League and Europa League from 2015. Within the legal team itself, 80% of low-value work is now handled offshore by Axiom, which at the start of 2014 won a contract to replace previous LPO provider UnitedLex. Tipton says: ‘We are pushing people up the value chain and being more cost-effective.’ BT’s overall legal spend is now split 58% internal and 42% external.

The team also set up a coaching and mentoring accreditation scheme for senior lawyers in 2014 to help with career development. Another initiative includes the establishment of Your Voice: a forum that includes representative lawyers from across all of the regions in which BT operates and communicates issues to the BT leadership team. The team also offers flexible working as a matter of course, and boasts a notable number of women in senior transactional and commercial roles.

In terms of its dealings with external law firms, BT operates a layered approach, with a regional network of preferred suppliers bolstered by Axiom, Obelisk Legal Support, Halebury, Shilton Sharpe Quarry’s Interim Solutions and NewGalexy. BT also typically fields more work out to regional law firms, with Wright Hassall undertaking a large and growing portion of its commercial instructions.

The telecoms giant has no minimum commitments to its external law firms and the panel is not fixed or exclusive. However, the work being fielded to external firms is becoming more niche – Bird & Bird used to undertake mainly commercial work for BT but, at the last review, around a third of its work related to competition or intellectual property litigation.

Fowler, who has been driving the Axiom deal and other new initiatives, says: ‘A lot of this comes down to leadership. I’m lucky that Dan said to me: “I want you thinking about the bigger picture.”’

Legal Business

In-house: BT Global Services GC moves to Serco

In-house: BT Global Services GC moves to Serco

UK outsourcing company Serco has hired BT Global Services general counsel (GC) David Eveleigh as its group GC and company secretary.

The high-profile hire will see Eveleigh join the group’s executive committee on 17 November 2014 to manage the group’s legal affairs. He replaces Serco’s current company secretary John Hickey, who will assume another senior role within Serco.

Eveleigh currently sits on BT Global Services’ legal leadership team for the wider BT Group. Prior to this, he was GC for BT’s operations in Canada, US and Latin America, and was based in California. Eveleigh started his legal career at legacy firm Ashurst Morris Crisp.

Serco Group chief executive officer Rupert Soames said: ‘David Eveleigh is a highly accomplished general counsel with extensive experience in multinational organisations. His appointment marks an important milestone in our corporate renewal programme. I am delighted to welcome David to Serco where he will be an invaluable member of the senior team as we build a strong future for the business.’

Alastair Lyons, chairman of Serco Group added: ‘On behalf of the board, I would like to offer our thanks to John for his excellent work and I wish him all the best for his future in Serco.’

In February, Archana Makol was named compliance officer of the legal practice for BT Law, replacing Miles Jobling.

jaishree.kalia@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

BT selects Axiom for global legal outsourcing and analytics contract

Jobling steps aside as head of volume business BT Law

An innovator long at the vanguard of transforming the traditional in-house legal function, BT in February entered into a three-year contract with Axiom to provide the telecoms giant with legal outsourcing and analytics services across the UK, US, Africa, Middle East and Asia, replacing and extending a contract formerly held by legal process outsourcing (LPO) provider UnitedLex.

All work previously undertaken by UnitedLex, which includes 30% of BT’s global services division’s legal work in the UK, transferred to Axiom on 1 February after a successful tender process that concluded towards the end of 2013.