Legal Business

Pearson eyes cost reductions with rejigged legal panel

Pearson eyes cost reductions with rejigged legal panel

Education company Pearson has consolidated its legal adviser panels into new ‘preferred’ and ‘general’ rosters, moving away from specialised panels to help reduce costs.

Fourteen firms have been appointed to a new ‘preferred’ panel, which will cover what Pearson describes as ‘day to day requirements’, as well as new areas not formerly covered by external counsel such as US immigration and US employment work. A ‘general’ panel has also been introduced, consisting of 13 firms Pearson has a long-standing relationship with.

The review, led by general counsel (GC) Bjarne Tellmann, placed a premium on the respective firms’ experience, flexibility in billing and diversity. The review process was also overseen by deputy GC Michael McQueeny and senior counsel and vice president Karen Abraham.

Among the firms appointed to the preferred panel were Charles Russell Speechlys, DWF, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, HSF, Littler Mendelson and Morgan Lewis & Bockius.  For the general panel, Bird & Bird, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, DLA Piper, Pinsent Masons and Sullivan & Cromwell were among the firms appointed.

Tellmann said the review was ‘part of Pearson’s ongoing efforts to reduce costs, simplify the business and ensure we are running a world class operating company.’

He added: ‘Running a periodic review is also good business practice, ensuring we have the scaffolding in place to help Pearson achieve its strategic objectives as well as maximize value and meet budgets.’

In 2016 Pearson reviewed both its US corporate and US litigation panels. Sullivan & Cromwell was among the firms selected for the corporate line-up while Goodwin Procter was among the firms appointed to the disputes roster. Meanwhile, the publisher’s IT and commercial panel was last reviewed in 2015.

Firms appointed to the panels include:

Preferred:

  • Ballard Spahr
  • Charles Russell Speechlys
  • DWF
  • Fieldfisher
  • Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
  • Goodwin Procter
  • Herbert Smith Freehills
  • Jackson Lewis
  • Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton
  • Littler Mendelson
  • Morgan Lewis & Bockius
  • Nielsen Merksamer Parrinelo Gross & Leoni
  • Oppenheim + Zebrak
  • Quarles & Brady

General:

  • Bird & Bird
  • Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton
  • Davis Wright Tremain
  • DLA Piper
  • Dorsey & Whitney
  • Gray Plant Mooty
  • Kemp Little
  • Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler
  • Pinsent Masons
  • Shapiro Arato
  • Steptoe Johnson
  • Sullivan & Cromwell
  • Woodhouse

tom.baker@legalease.co.uk

Legal Business

‘I am trying to start a conversation’: Pearson law chief’s new book creates playbook for the modern GC

‘I am trying to start a conversation’: Pearson law chief’s new book creates playbook for the modern GC

While there is a body of writing on how to run an in-house legal team, much of it is dominated by US authors. Aiming to fill the void, Bjarne Tellmann, the outspoken general counsel (GC) of FTSE 100 publishing empire Pearson, has just published Building an Outstanding Legal Team. Tellmann discusses the book with Tom Baker.

 

LB: What’s the general theme of your book?

I wanted to create a model based on my experience and the experiences of people I know, that could apply to anyone, no matter the size of their team. It starts by tackling the ‘hardware’, the tangible aspects behind running a legal department. Managing your budget; structuring your outside partnerships; how to roll out technology; how to structure your team. Once you achieve some success on the hardware side, you have more credibility to tackle the ‘software’. That includes culture – how do you identify untested assumptions your culture rests on? How do you blow those up and re-tool your culture?

Then it turns to leadership skills. Nine out of ten leadership qualities are not legal in nature. There are consistent things like innate curiosity, being a constant learner that’s interested in ideas, excellent communication skills, understanding your business, being results-driven, having courage, understanding different leadership styles and how to use those flexibly.

The thing that’s often overlooked is grit. I’m tremendously impressed by single mothers or fathers who work their way through school with two kids and a night job. That’s more impressive than someone who’s extremely successful academically but has a lot of air under their wings.

The last part of the book is based on the threads that wind the way between software and hardware. First thing is change management – if you’re trying to change human behaviour, people get emotional. You have to understand how you’re going to tackle that. There’s a science to it.

The last thing is strategic direction before you set out on a journey. Be sure you have a pretty good picture of where you’re heading.

LB: Would favouring life skills over academic credentials unsettle some lawyers?

‘If you don’t have the ability to quickly acquire new skills, you won’t succeed.’
Bjarne Tellmann, Pearson

There’s a baseline of academic skill you need, but as a community we are timid in our selection criteria. It’s very easy to get at that by understanding somebody’s life story, or asking them: ‘Can you give me an example of a challenge you’ve overcome?’ It’s amazing the stories that come out of it.

I don’t think that should trump professional excellence, but the legal profession is one of the most conservative in characterising what constitutes a well-educated mind.

We have this notion that after seven years of school we stop learning. What’s much more impressive are people like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg, who became life-long learners. Bill Gates reads a book a week. That is education. Constantly grazing on podcasts and magazines, books, conferences – that’s what influences the kind of person you are, not somebody who thinks they learned everything they need at Oxbridge.

LB: Do the GCs you know match your key criteria?

I took them from GCs or people who helped me at various stages of my career. It’s a little idealised. The best GCs typically have a large combination of those skills.

What is the world we’re operating in today? It’s exceedingly complex. It’s a place where the legal profession itself is under massive change. With that complexity comes the room to acquire some of these skills. If you don’t have that ability to acquire knowledge quickly, I don’t think you’re going to succeed.

LB: Why are there so few books on how to be an in-house lawyer?

There were a ton of books on how to deal with the board, managing relations with the CEO, the role of ethics. What was missing was the more practical framework. I did an executive course at Harvard Law School last year. The professors told me: ‘Power has shifted from law firms to in-house over the last ten years. But for us, as educators, the in-house experience is a black box. It would be great if you were to write something to set out a model.’

If someone came to me and said: ‘I liked this part of the book, I didn’t like this part, here’s how to improve on it,’ that would be great. It’s trying to get a conversation started regarding what constitutes excellence in an in-house legal team.

LB: You mention cultural sensitivity as one of the key skills for the modern GC. Why?

There are fundamental differences between cultures. Some operate as high-context cultures, others as low-context. If I’m Japanese and you’re Japanese, I don’t have to explain the context of what I’m saying to you. In fact, if I do spell it out, it’s a bit insulting. On the other end of the scale, in high-context cultures, is the US, which is made up from immigrants from all over the world. The culture evolved to a point where people have no idea about each other’s sub-cultures, so they need to spell it out. Latin Americans tend to be more hierarchical and loyalty is really big. Asia is just another dimension. It’s often about building relationships long before you need it.

This is something you can teach. GCs should learn these skills and pass them onto their team members, but very often we don’t. That’s a recipe for misunderstanding.

tom.baker@legalease.co.uk

Building an Outstanding Legal Team: Battle-Tested Strategies from a General Counsel is available now.

Legal Business

Cleary, Goodwin and Morgan Lewis win places on Pearson US deals panel

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A quintet of international firms including Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Dorsey & Whitney, Goodwin Procter, Morgan Lewis & Bockius, and Sullivan & Cromwell have all won places on publishing giant Pearson’s US corporate M&A panel.

In June Legal Business revealed that Pearson, the largest education company and book publisher in the world, had launched its US corporate panel after finalising spots on its litigation roster for the region.

The review was led by the company’s senior in-house legal team comprising group general counsel (GC) Bjarne Tellmann, deputy legal heads Michael McQueeney, Graeme Baldwin, and associate GC, Rob Abramson. Pearson also drafted in the help of consultancy Accenture which provided support during the process.

Pearson’s review focused on firm experience and expertise in the M&A space (particularly in the education area), value, flexibility in billing and alternate fees, and diversity.

In a statement Pearson said the panel process is part of its broader efforts to simplify its business, as the company ‘focuses on fewer, bigger opportunities in education.’

‘Pearson’s panel process continues efforts to realign its use of legal resources to ensure it has the right law firms for the evolving nature of the company’s legal work, as well as the right balance of in-house and external resources.’

Tellmann said: ‘Pearson is continuing on its journey to become leaner, more agile and focussed on the big opportunities in education. As part of this we are building out our legal capabilities – both in-house and with the support of external partners. The high quality of the panel is reflected in the calibre of firms, which was exceptional.’

Late last year Tellmann also oversaw the review process for a UK panel, which was divided into sub-panels by practice area with DLA Piper, Pinsent Masons, Freshfields and Herbert Smith Freehills winning corporate M&A adviser roles.

Pinsents, Fieldfisher and Kemp Little were given spots for IT and commercial work; and Charles Russell Speechlys and DWF won places for employment work.

This morning it emerged that BT has kicked off a formal panel review for its UK legal advisers after a five month delay and is to create a separate international panel for the first time later this year.

sarah.downey@legalease.co.uk

For more on Pearson, see ‘The Client – Bjarne Tellmann’

Legal Business

Pearson kicks off second US panel review after finalising litigation roster

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Pearson, the largest education company and book publisher in the world, has launched its US corporate panel review after finalising spots on its litigation roster for the region. The US changes come after Pearson finalised its UK roster in recent months with the help of Accenture.

Senior vice president and general counsel Bjarne Tellmann (pictured), who worked on the UK panel, is leading a review of the publishing giant’s US M&A panel.

While Pearson’s panels have no fixed timeframe, key factors for Tellmann are coverage in practice area and geography, industry experience, assessing the individuals put forward, value-adds and diversity.

The US litigation panel concluded recently includes Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, Goodwin Procter, and Steptoe & Johnson, joined by Davis Wright Tremaine, Dorsey & Whitney, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, Oppenheim + Zebrak, Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, and Woodhouse.

It is no surprise that Pearson is scrutinising its spend on legal fees relating to transactional activity. The firm outsourced a series of media disposals to firms last year, namely the Financial Times to Japanese group Nikkei for £844m, and Pearson’s 50% stake in The Economist Group to Exor for £469m. It had used Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer for the FT sale, and the Magic Circle firm again for the Economist sale.

Late last year Tellmann led the review process for a UK panel, which was divided into sub-panels by practice area with DLA Piper, Pinsent Masons, Freshfields and Herbert Smith Freehills winning corporate M&A adviser roles.

Pinsents, Fieldfisher and Kemp Little were given spots for IT and commercial work; and Charles Russell Speechlys and DWF won places for employment work.

The process was concluded with the help of consultancy Accenture. While it is unusual for in-house counsel to draft the help of consultants on panel reviews, Tellmann told Legal Business it had been a ‘great experience’. He added: ‘They helped structure the plan and put an arm’s length to it… it’s important that you do this in a proper way.’

sarah.downey@legalease.co.uk

For more on Pearson’s Bjarne Tellmann, see The Client.

Legal Business

Pearson kicks off second US panel review after finalising litigation roster

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Launch of US corporate review follows UK panel selection

Pearson, the largest education company and book publisher in the world, has launched its US corporate panel review after finalising spots on its litigation roster for the region. The US changes come after Pearson finalised its UK roster in recent months with the help of Accenture.

Legal Business

Client profile: Bjarne Tellmann, Pearson

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The plain-speaking Pearson law chief on driving change and pulling up your role models

Last month, Pearson’s high-profile senior vice president and general counsel (GC) Bjarne Tellmann was attending an executive leadership course at Harvard Law School when he bumped into Ben Heineman, General Electric Company (GE)’s former veteran legal head who is lauded by many for inventing the playbook for the sophisticated, globe-trotting GC.

Legal Business

‘A robust UK legal market’: Pearson GC confirms new panel with Freshfields, HSF, DLA and Pinsents winning corporate mandates

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Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), DLA Piper and Pinsent Masons have all won key mandates on Pearson’s new legal panel, as the company’s general counsel (GC) Bjarne Tellmann praised the robust state of the UK legal market.

Pinsent Masons was also appointed to the publisher’s IT and commercial panel, alongside Kemp Little and Fieldfisher.

The review was led by Tellmann, with deputy GC for litigation and regulatory affairs Michael McQueeney and other key members of the legal team participating in all meetings with law firms.

Speaking to Legal Business, Tellmann said that the level of quality the team encountered from all of the participants was ‘incredible’.

‘The final panelists were selected based on a broad range of metrics designed to ensure that the winners would be best suited to foster a close and collaborative partnership with our team. I should add that it was not just the winners who were impressive. The depth and bench strength we saw confirmed to me that the state of the UK legal market is very robust indeed.’

Freshfields acted for Pearson in two major disposals this year. It acted alongside HSF on July’s sale of the Financial Times group to Japan’s Nikkei for £844m, and on the sale of Pearson’s stake in The Economist group in August for £469m to Exor and back to the group itself.

Freshfields corporate partners Oliver Lazenby and Simon Marchant led Pearson on the sale of its 50% interest in the group, which comprises the weekly magazine plus other titles and the Economist Intelligence Unit, to existing shareholder Exor which is taking 27.8% with 22.2% repurchased by the group.

The Magic Circle firm has built a strong relationship with the FTSE 100 company, with duo Marchant and Lazenby having also advised the publisher on the combination between Penguin and Random House, as well as its disposal of Mergermarket Group.

kathryn.mccann@legalease.co.uk