In what is a brand new category for the Legal Business Awards in 2020, we are pleased to reveal the Most Transformative In-House Team of the Year.
This award recognises in-house legal teams that have made a major contribution to change or transformation either at an industry or sector level, or have championed unusual or innovative approaches. This could range from dealing admirably with dramatic changes in a particular industry to wrestling with challenges in society linked to cultural or technological upheaval.
Winner – BT
The in-house legal department at BT has undergone significant changes over the last two years. First, group general counsel Sabine Chalmers joined from Anheuser-Busch InBev in April 2018, replacing the widely-admired Dan Fitz. Then the team was restructured to mirror the shape of the wider business before, finally, a high-profile managed services deal was signed with newly-listed law firm DWF.
The resulting transformation made BT the standout choice for this year’s award. The company’s lawyers are now freed up for strategic work, with 84% of low-value deals managed by a legal process outsourcing team of 34 in Belfast and Wroclaw. Moreover, a 10% reduction in the total cost of legal for 2018/19 means the figure now stands at about £70m.
Meanwhile, BT also grabbed headlines when a team of 43 covering insurance and real estate work switched to DWF on a five-year multimillion-pound managed legal services arrangement. General counsel of technology at BT, Chris Fowler (and LB Awards judge, who recused himself from this category), was the lawyer charged with finding the right partner for the managed services deal, and he began by establishing the overall cost of BT’s function. There is just one budget now, but this was not always the case; as recently as 2017 there were six. After assessing 26 potential providers, a shortlist of four was agreed, and finally DWF was chosen.
The changes to the company’s legal function displayed an agility to respond to changes in the wider business. In 2018, BT announced plans to cut around 13,000 jobs over the next three years in a bid to save £1.5bn in costs. A month later, chief executive Gavin Peterson surprisingly resigned after five years at the helm. Throughout, the company’s legal function has been adapting to these seismic shifts in the business.
Director of transformation, Dave Hart, now leads a team of 15 tasked with building on Fowler’s foundation and dedicating full-time resource to the ‘transformation agenda.’ Expect more change and evolution at BT in the years to come.
Highly Commended – NetApp
A close second for this year’s award was American hybrid cloud data services company NetApp, with slick technology use and an expanded business function impressing judges.
One such piece of tech was a robotic process automation tool designed to improve contract management. NetApp used the tool, which it named Bot-icelli, to reduce end-to-end contract processing time from 15 minutes to 2.5 minutes, freeing up parts of the business for more complex work.
NetApp’s legal function has also helped the company develop beyond its single-product origins. Today, the business includes products and services, including a cloud business. One specific area where legal aided the wider business was in reducing a 70-page agreement for consumption of hyper-converged infrastructure to a two-page agreement, expediting time to close deals.
NetApp Legal also expanded its purview to include a government relations function. Over the past year, the company benchmarked and researched to better understand how NetApp could design and leverage a government relations function to proactively advance business objectives.
The Mindful Business Charter, devised by Barclays alongside Pinsent Masons and Addleshaw Goddard, aims to cut down on workplace practices that contribute to stress and poor mental health among lawyers, and has grown to nearly 40 signatories since its inception in late 2018.
Coca-Cola European Partners
Over just three months in 2019, a small legal team at CCEP navigated a slew of regulatory and governance changes to complete a listing move that had never been attempted before: a transfer from Euronext to the London Stock Exchange.
The legal team has been central in GSK and Pfizer smoothly combing their respective consumer healthcare businesses to create a world-leading joint venture with combined sales of approximately £9.8bn.
With the outsourcing sector facing turbulent times in recent years, Mitie’s legal team has been at the heart of its transformation as it has ridden the storm to successfully refocus, reset and re-establish its business.