Legal Business

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.