Technology, Media and Telecoms

Technology, Media and Telecoms

Dan Fitz: General counsel and company secretary, BT

Team headcount: 440

Law firms used: Bird & Bird, CMS Cameron McKenna, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer; also uses alternative providers Obelisk Legal Support, Axiom, Halebury and SSQ Interim Solutions

Widely commended for promoting the in-house legal role beyond its image as a support function, general counsel (GC) Dan Fitz has overseen great change during his six-year tenure at the telecoms giant.

He joined the company as group GC in 2010 from financial services software provider Misys. Under his watch, the team at BT has become one of the first in-house legal departments to obtain an alternative business structure licence and launch its successful legal process outsourcing venture. As a result, commercial external legal spend has dropped by 90% since 2010.

He also began a wide-reaching strategic review in November 2015, which will look at how legal could change its internal structure to bring its lawyers closer to the business, and has also been preparing for its current panel review. All this amid BT’s high-profile £12.5bn acquisition of Britain’s largest mobile network group EE, from Deutsche Telekom and Orange, a deal that will involve BT consolidating its back-offices and making savings on procurement, marketing and sales costs. Fitz’s alternative approach to managing spend has seen BT operate a tiered approach to its external advisers, with a regional network of preferred suppliers comprising Axiom, Obelisk Legal Support, Halebury and Shilton Sharpe Quarry’s Interim Solutions. He can also call on a deep bench of senior lawyers internally, including chief operating officer and director of compliance and ethics, Gareth Tipton, and GC for UK commercial legal services, Chris Fowler.

Away from legal work, Fitz oversaw the creation of a coaching and mentoring accreditation scheme for senior lawyers in 2014 to help with career development. Your Voice is a forum that comprises representative lawyers from across all of the regions in which BT operates and communicates issues to the BT leadership team. Flexible working and gender diversity are also high on Fitz’s agenda: the team offers flexible working as a matter of course and boasts a notable number of women in senior transactional and commercial roles.


James Conyers: General counsel, BSkyB

Team headcount: 120 lawyers

Law firms used: Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith Freehills, Olswang, Reed Smith

The highly-regarded James Conyers has enjoyed a steady rise to the top legal role at the satellite broadcaster. He joined Sky’s legal department in 1993, becoming deputy head of legal and business affairs in 1998 and head of legal and business affairs in 2005. Today, the company secretary and five directors of legal report to him.

Conyers cites the team’s handling of the company’s high-profile £7.4bn buyout of European sister companies Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia from 21st Century Fox as the most significant matter handled by the team in recent years. The deal, which was cleared by EU antitrust authorities in September 2014, created a pan-European business with 20 million customers and combined revenues of over £11bn. Conyers led the team comprising deputy GC Andrew Middleton and principal legal adviser Sianne Walsh, and longstanding main external adviser Herbert Smith Freehills.

In the battle for market share, Conyers notes it is important to ‘keep ahead as far as we can – and keep up with the sheer pace of innovation in the market we operate. There’s no single big bang moment – it’s across the piece. There is a lot of change. We’re stepping into that and embracing it, and making sure that we stay competitive.’

Conyers, like many legal chiefs in the TMT sector, also references increased regulation. Watchdog Ofcom is currently in the early stages of its strategic review of digital communications, something which Conyers says his team is ‘very focused on’.

In 2014 Ofcom published a consultation as part of its review of the pay TV ‘wholesale must-offer’ remedy, which applied to Sky Sports 1 and 2, meaning Conyers was required to lead a strategic review of digital communications. In November 2015 the team welcomed Ofcom’s decision to remove the regulation requiring Sky to offer Sky Sports 1 and 2 on a wholesale basis, as the company now widely supplies these channels to other pay TV providers on commercial terms. ‘That was [a] significant change for us,’ he says.

This year, Conyers will focus on Sky’s plans to launch a mobile phone service in partnership with O2’s Spanish parent, Telefónica. The deal brings the company into the arena for a highly-prized ‘quad play’, adding mobile to its existing services of internet, landline and TV.


Angus McBride: General counsel, News UK

Team headcount: 30

Law firms used: Allen & Overy, Arnold & Porter, Linklaters, Osborne Clarke

A new entrant to the in-house community, high-profile litigator Angus McBride joined Rupert Murdoch-owned media giant News UK as general counsel (GC) in January, just five months after the company re-hired former Sun editor Rebekah Brooks, who McBride represented during the phone-hacking trial of 2014, as chief executive.

The ‘first class’ McBride joined the company in April 2016 from Kingsley Napley and is now serving as a member of the executive team. He succeeded Emma Moloney, who departed at the start of the year.

While at Kingsley Napley, other high-profile clients for McBride included former army intelligence officers in Lord Stevens’ investigation into collusion in Northern Ireland between loyalist paramilitaries and state security forces, and the chief executive of Innospec following an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into international corruption.

Publisher of The Sun, The Times, and The Sunday Times, News UK drafted McBride in as part of a management overhaul at News UK following Brooks’ return as chief executive in September, while three top executives, chief operating officer Chris Taylor, director of corporate affairs Guto Harri and business intelligence director Andrew Day, departed. McBride is a rare breed among GCs for his background in criminal, rather than civil law.

McBride is already handling the fall-out from a front page story in The Sun in March with the headline, ‘Queen backs Brexit’. Buckingham Place took the unusual step of complaining to press regulator IPSO about the story.


‘I totally admire Rosemary.’

Rosemary Martin: Group general counsel and company secretary, Vodafone

Team headcount: 350 lawyers

Law firms used: DLA Piper, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells, Linklaters, Norton Rose Fulbright, Olswang, Slaughter and May; also alternative providers Axiom, Riverview Law and Obelisk Legal Support

Rosemary Martin is widely cited as one of the outstanding figures in the global legal industry, a reputation that saw her named Lawyer of the Year at the 2015 Legal Business Awards and attract multiple nominations from general counsel (GC) peers and private practice lawyers alike as an obvious candidate for the 2016 GC Powerlist.

Martin has diligently led a 350-lawyer team across 26 jurisdictions, helping execute major cross-border deal work for the company, all against growing pressures to create greater cost efficiencies for the legal division while meeting a toughening regulatory landscape in the telecoms market.

After making partner at City firm Rowe & Maw in 1989, in 1997 she joined Reuters, where she launched its first-ever formal review of external legal advisers and opted to employ local law firms alongside the Magic Circle to get better rates for the business.

Since joining Vodafone in 2010, Martin has fundamentally reshaped the approach to in-house management of panels, cutting Vodafone’s panel roster from 30 to ten and formalising a relationship with alternative legal services supplier Axiom to support the company’s Luxembourg-based procurement division. Vodafone also regularly instructs other alternative providers Riverview and Obelisk Legal Support.

Other innovative moves under Martin’s leadership include Vodafone’s deal with the legal process outsourcing arm of Indian law firm Qui Prior Law Associates in 2013.

Martin is a fan of fixed fees and expects a host of value-adds, including a clear demonstration of gender diversity by firms to gain a coveted panel spot. She has been particularly vocal about diversity and in 2015 called for the introduction of quotas for senior female roles through a change in legislation.

Says Kingfisher GC Clare Wardle: ‘I totally admire her for dragging her partners in and telling them to explain their diversity programmes.’

A known deal junkie, two game-changing transactions under Martin’s leadership include the $130bn disposal of its stake in Verizon Wireless in 2013, one of the largest corporate transactions in history; and the £6.6bn acquisition of German TV firm Kabel Deutschland. These deals came as Vodafone was still bedding down its £1bn takeover of Cable & Wireless Worldwide in 2012.

A confident speaker, Martin has proved one of the most effective figures at positioning the GC in the wider business community. The consummate all-rounder.


Bjarne Tellmann: General counsel and senior vice president, Pearson

Team headcount: 183

Law firms used: Charles Russell Speechlys, DLA Piper, DWF, Fieldfisher, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith Freehills, Kemp Little, Pinsent Masons

New York-based Bjarne Tellmann joined FTSE 100 multinational publishing and education company Pearson as general counsel (GC) in 2014. Although he was taking over the top legal role at the largest education company and book publisher in the world, employing 40,000 staff in more than 70 countries, Tellmann found he had a lot of work to do before the in-house team matched his vision for how it should serve the business. In the two years since, Tellmann has redesigned the legal function, introduced new technology and significantly reduced legal spend.

He joined Pearson as it was starting to centralise its core business functions. For Tellmann, this meant gathering together the lawyers employed by the company globally into a unified team with a common budget. Despite the physical distances involved between the company’s various lawyers, Tellmann began his time as GC by communicating a set of shared global risks his team could help address. He then set about cutting $7m from the legal spend over the next year and a half by introducing billing guidelines and preventing non-legal staff from approaching outside counsel. A second strand of this cost-cutting saw Tellmann introduce new IT to help manage contracts and track IP claims and other disputes.

Tellmann has an unusual background for a GC and senior vice president at one of the world’s largest companies: he trained as an actor in Norway and worked on a number of films before studying theatre at Boston University. A growing interest in politics and economics led him to take a graduate degree at the London School of Economics before moving into law. Before joining Pearson, he held a number of positions at Coca-Cola’s various global offices.


Andrea Harris: Group chief counsel, WPP

Team headcount: 17

Law firms used: Allen & Overy, Bristows, Davis & Gilbert, Squire Patton Boggs

Acting as strategic adviser to the largest marketing services company in the world is not an easy task. For the last 19 years Andrea Harris, group chief counsel at WPP, has done just that. An M&A lawyer by training, Harris fits in well at WPP, the most prolific acquirer in the marketing industry globally and one of the most acquisitive companies in the FTSE, completing over 100 deals in the past two years.

With a team of 12 lawyers in the UK and five in New York, Harris is not only expected to keep up with WPP’s rapid expansion but to advise on the big changes affecting the industry. WPP chief executive Martin Sorrell has recently spoken about the geopolitical events that could impact the industry, but for the company’s lawyers cyber security and data risk are just as pressing concerns.

Last year the Court of Justice of the European Union determined that ‘safe harbour’ laws allowing for the transfer of EU citizens’ data to the US were no longer valid. In the absence of safe harbour, a lot of companies are turning to EU-modelled clause agreements, but Harris is looking further ahead to new EU data protection regulations due to come into force in 2018. These laws will provide a new definition of what data is and give far greater power to consumers wishing to exercise control over how their personal data is used, creating significant challenges for both WPP and its clients.

‘Everyone wants to be able to use data appropriately and in a compliant fashion,’ says Harris, ‘but you don’t want to be more cautious than necessary because data is a key part of market drive.’

The advertising industry is facing other challenges, particularly the risks that arise from market convergence and new competitors, with Big Four accountants acquiring advertising agencies and looking to take a share of the business. For Harris, however, it is M&A work that has provided her with the greatest satisfaction. In December 2015 WPP merged its Australian and New Zealand businesses with STW Communications Group, a company in which it had held a longstanding interest in through a number of joint ventures. The deal was very important to WPP for a number of reasons but it was also a personal highlight for Harris, who worked on the early STW joint ventures when she first joined the company nearly 20 years ago.


Edward Smith: General counsel, Telefónica UK

Team headcount: 33 lawyers

Law firms used: Ashurst, Baker & McKenzie, DAC Beachcroft, DLA Piper, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith Freehills, Pinsent Masons, Shoosmiths, Simmons & Simmons

Telefónica’s high-profile general counsel Edward Smith is characterised by peers as a leader who encourages his team to chase experiences within a business beyond traditional in-house counsel roles.

‘Ed has a striking ability to cut straight through the issues that matter.’

The former Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer lawyer has established a reputation as an innovative thinker within the in-house legal community and prefers to invest in the development of his 33-strong lawyer team where possible rather than outsource strategic work to outside counsel.

During his tenure Smith established a strategy whereby each legal team head was appointed a ‘dancing partner’ on Telefónica’s board to embed themselves with leadership teams and subsequently gain greater knowledge of the business. Having taken over the role in 2011 following a reorganisation of the Spanish giant’s UK and European operations, he has further managed a major feat for the company in making hefty savings of 66% (totalling £2.9m) on external legal spend since 2012.

Last year saw Smith handle issues surrounding a proposed acquisition of Telefónica’s O2 by telecoms giant BT, which went on to acquire mobile network group EE for £12.5bn, while at the same time ‘keeping his team motivated and positive’.

Other major mandates have included handling network deals for the first Amazon smartphone; responding to and shaping Ofcom’s proposed guidance on mid-contract price rises, which related to the business’s ability to levy annual RPI increases to monthly subscriptions; and ongoing work for the UK government’s £1.2bn procurement involving the emergency services network.

One private practice recommendation says: ‘Ed has a striking ability to cut straight through the issues to land on points that really matter. He encourages his team to do the same and the result is a very business focused and results-orientated legal function. He also has great communication skills – he finds commonality with everyone.’


Sarah Jones: Group general counsel, BBC

Team headcount: 75

Law firms used: Baker & McKenzie, Fieldfisher, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells, King & Wood Mallesons, Olswang, Reed Smith

Former Allen & Overy (A&O) lawyer Sarah Jones joined the BBC in 1996 as head of litigation and IP before taking the top role as general counsel (GC) in 2012 and is described by one private practice partner as having ‘certainly geared up the legal team’. The division comprises the GC’s office, workplace and information rights, commercial legal, IP legal, the editorial legal group (comprising litigation and programme legal advice) and employment.

Previously a lawyer at A&O for eight years, Jones and the legal team sit alongside producers, serving as a ‘work-alongside’ function rather than compliance, and have previously worked on Panorama investigations including Nike, G4 and FIFA. The legal team also deal with reporting challenges to make it possible to report news about court cases that otherwise wouldn’t make it through and Jones also worked alongside the legal team on the Dame Janet Smith’s review for the last three years.

After winning praise for its coverage of the 2012 London Olympics, this year’s summer games in Rio de Janeiro, followed by Tokyo in 2020, will remain with the BBC as the sole rights holder as agreed with the International Olympic Committee. However, its sports portfolio has come under pressure as competition in the sector intensifies with broadcasters battling for TV rights, and in 2015 it suffered a major setback after losing its title as sole rights holder for the Olympic Games when Discovery, owner of Eurosport, signed a £920m pan-European deal for exclusive rights from 2022 onwards.

Troubles aside, under Jones’ leadership the broadcaster has become known for mentoring young lawyers and in 2014 recruited three legal services apprentices for its London-based legal department. With a mandate to complete the Advanced Apprenticeship in Legal Services, the apprentices are offered experience working in the rights and business affairs teams within the BBC.


James Blendis: General counsel and company secretary, Everything Everywhere (EE)

Team headcount: 50

Law firms and chambers used: 4 Pump Court, Addleshaw Goddard, Bird & Bird, Clifford Chance, DAC Beachcroft, Essex Court Chambers, Fieldfisher, King & Wood Mallesons, Monckton Chambers, Osborne Clarke, Slaughter and May

One of the UK’s most high-profile general counsel (GCs), James Blendis has recently become synonymous with the biggest telecoms deal of 2015, EE’s £12.5bn takeover by telecoms giant BT. With the acquisition gaining regulatory approval in January, Blendis has kept his title as GC and company secretary and continues to report to EE chief executive Marc Allera, with the intention of largely maintaining his legal team as a separate operation.

Blendis has, however, integrated certain legal functions, particularly those that operate across BT’s lines of business, including employment, legal affairs, litigation, and certain security capabilities.

The newly implemented structure means EE is now retained as a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT. EE retains its status and operates as a separate mobile division of BT.

For Blendis, the hallmarks of a good GC mean ‘staying in touch with [the] strategic direction’ of the business while ‘understanding the dynamics of your team so they feel they’ve got careers’. Blendis was appointed GC of EE, the merged company of Orange and T-Mobile, in 2010 having previously been GC of T-Mobile UK for six years. Today he oversees a 100-strong team comprising 50 lawyers equipped to handle myriad contentious matters, including a government liaison team that provides services to police and security agencies for the purposes of monitoring and call-recording provisions.

With risk and compliance high on the agenda Blendis has – during the various incarnations of EE over the years – forged a reputation for effective management of contentious scenarios.

Blendis was drawn into the UK phone-hacking scandal in 2012 and called to appear as a witness in the Leveson inquiry to represent the business on phone security. He further gave evidence in front of the Home Affairs committee over the likelihood of customers being victims of hacking. Recalling the experience, he says: ‘It needed careful handling, it was serious for our reputation.’

Recently he has been more heavily involved in EE’s strategic direction, and led the legal support for the launch of the UK’s first 4G mobile network, against years of delays from regulatory challenges. And as the battle for market share over on-demand television intensifies, Blendis oversaw the company’s launch of EE TV in 2014.


Marcus Lee: General counsel, Channel 5

Team headcount: 18

Law firms used: DLA Piper, Olswang, Rosenblatt

With a lengthy career in media law behind him, Channel 5’s legal chief Marcus Lee has always been attracted to the commercial challenges afforded by the in-house role. He left private practice in 2002, taking a job as a legal assistant at London-based Showtime, a subsidiary of Viacom – the US media giant that acquired Channel 5 from Northern & Shell Media Group for £450m in 2014. Lee stayed within Viacom for a further three years as European counsel at Paramount Home Entertainment, before joining Northern & Shell’s print division as a group legal adviser for Express Newspapers. When the British publishing and television group bought Channel 5 in 2010, Lee was drafted in from the beginning as general counsel (GC).

Since Lee inherited the team in 2010, headcount has grown to 18 members as the business expanded. A significant development for Lee was the creation of Five Productions, which means the broadcaster is now creating its own content, as well as licensing from independent producers or major US studios. Major transactional work has included the purchase of the widely anticipated Batman prequel Gotham from Warner Bros and, with Channel 5 having grown from six platforms to 22, bread-and-butter work for Lee will be production agreements with independent film companies and acquisition agreements with studios, as well as managing talent agreements, location agreements and clearances.

Lee’s role also involves managing the balance between regulatory compliance and controversial, creative programming. Lee and his team remain on call 24/7 and work closely with production company Endemol on participant agreements.

And as the distinction between production and broadcasting becomes blurred, the broadcaster will in the future be fighting to stay on top in a fiercely competitive sector.


Claire Chapman: General counsel and company secretary, Daily Mail and General Trust

Team headcount: 16

Law firms used: RPC, Slaughter and May

Home to the Daily Mail, Metro and Mail Online, media giant Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) has seen the transformation of its legal division thanks to general counsel and company secretary Claire Chapman. DMGT appointed Chapman as its first-ever legal executive as part of an internal legal restructure in 2012. A major advocate for mentoring both within her teams and with external counsel, Chapman feels very strongly that those already well established in the profession have a role to play and is considered a ‘hugely popular presenter’ on the issue.

In four years Chapman has ‘worked tirelessly’ to establish risk-orientated programmes for the business ‘designed to preserve the individuality of various DMGT legal teams and ensuring they have access to cross-sector best practice’, according to one recommendation. Chapman manages the legal departments across DMGT’s divisions in the UK and overseas, including regional newspaper business Northcliffe Media, Euromoney Institutional Investor, and Mail and Metro publisher, Associated Newspapers. Responsible for legal and regulatory matters at DMGT’s headquarters, she advises on M&A programmes, contracts, corporate projects, effective governance and board management. She leads the group’s governance, risk and compliance network and chairs its corporate responsibility committee.

Chapman has further made her mark by guiding the company through major M&A deals, including property website Zoopla’s £1bn initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange in 2014 (DMGT was a majority shareholder); and the £220m disposal of regional news publisher Local World to Trinity Mirror in 2015.

A former Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer lawyer, Chapman’s previous experience in-house has included senior roles at Reuters and international automotive distributor, Inchcape.

One nominator comments: ‘Claire invests a huge amount of time in personal relationships at all levels. This fosters an in-depth understanding of the drivers affecting DMGT together with a genuine enthusiasm within the teams which serve her and the business.’


Perspectives: Sarah Jones, group general counsel, BBC

How do you compare your early career to now?

I worked for Allen & Overy for eight years. At that time, people were not as highly specialised so I did lots of media, commercial and public law litigation and gained broad experience, working for tabloids and broadsheets. I then moved in-house to become head of litigation at the BBC all those years ago and became responsible for IP and employment. When my old boss left four years ago, I applied and got the job. I’m very proud of the way in which we respond to a wide range of challenges in disparate areas. One of the BBC’s main strategic targets is to produce diverse and compelling content. We have a team of lawyers who work alongside our journalists and content producers to try to deliver that day in and day out. We support investigative journalism – for me that’s an ongoing and enduring piece of work.

What is an average day for the BBC legal team?

The majority of the work is sitting alongside producers – it’s not a compliance function, it’s a ‘work-alongside’ function. For example, Panorama’s gestation period is quite considerable. When we worked on Panorama’s investigations on FIFA, Nike, and G4, we would work alongside the journalists, taking into account legal risk. It’s an iterative process – us going backwards and forwards, and they will ask: ‘What do you think of that?’ Equally, we deal with reporting challenges to make it possible to report news about court cases that otherwise wouldn’t make it through. I also have to reference the work the litigation team does after the event and deal with investigations. As for the Dame Janet Smith Review [the independent review of the culture and practices of the BBC during the years that Jimmy Savile worked at the BBC], I worked alongside the team for the last three years representing the BBC.

Should GCs make a point of mentoring junior members of the team?

Mentoring isn’t the issue. Creating an environment in which you identify potential and support is essential. It can’t just be about taking the fully fledged article. You lose too much talent if you do that. You have to have an environment for people to learn.

‘God said to Noah: “I didn’t ask for the weather forecast, I asked for the Ark.” If you can’t deliver the objectives, you shouldn’t be doing the job.’

Do GCs naturally sit in the c-suite?

Your job is to identify what the objectives are for the company and deliver them in a way which is consistent with good principles. God said to Noah: ‘I didn’t ask for the weather forecast, I asked for the Ark.’ The role of the in-house team has developed beyond recognition from where it was ten years ago. It’s much more closely aligned with the business and if you can’t deliver the objectives, you shouldn’t be doing the job.

What do you think the remit of the GC role will be in the future?

We’re going to see an increase in non-lawyers’ contribution to the legal role and an interesting shift in the market with accountancy firms moving into the legal professional field. But there will always be a place for the highly-qualified, capable, external legal adviser in particular and internal legal adviser.

What is the future of the telecoms industry?

In broadcast terms, it’s the number of platforms content can be placed on; the integration between distribution, sales and production; and the huge number of producers competing in the field – Netflix and Amazon, for example. It’s an absolutely fascinating time to be working in broadcasting. This year I’ll be making sure we can retain talent in order to produce content that makes the BBC loved.

What’s your biggest law firm gripe?

Doing unnecessary work which increases opportunity minimally and reduces risk minimally. All of the BBC’s external law firms know a relationship of trust is the single most important factor.

You are a supporter of sharing ideas. Tell us about that.

Sharing information and knowledge from elsewhere is absolutely vital. I personally attend a lot of media forums, whether it’s the Westminster Policy Forum, the Television Lawyers Forum or the Media Lawyers Association. You’ve got to get out there, otherwise you don’t know what’s going on.

Which GCs do you admire?

I’ve got huge admiration for Gill Phillips at The Guardian. She’s one of the finest programme lawyers I know.

Career advice?

Don’t overspecialise. A lot of your role is identifying legal opportunities and knowing risk. You’re better placed to do that with a broad background and then you can bring in the specialist to help you!

What is your favourite BBC show?

The Night Manager.


Sarah Davis: Group commercial legal director, Guardian Media Group

Team headcount: Five

Law firms used: Bristows, Cooley, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Greenberg Traurig, Olswang

When former CIA employee Edward Snowden disclosed classified information from the US National Security Agency on mass surveillance and government secrecy in 2013, The Guardian was among the newspapers to cover the leaks. The events that followed – pressure on the newspaper from the British government, the arrest of David Miranda, partner of Guardian US columnist Glenn Greenwald, at Heathrow airport, the destruction of computer hard drives containing copies of some secret files, the newspaper’s then editor, Alan Rusbridger, being asked whether he loved his country before a Home Affairs select committee – were so unusual that the Guardian Media Group’s commercial legal director, Sarah Davis, later met with film producer Harvey Weinstein to discuss a potential film deal over the affair.

The Snowden story was one of the most spectacular episodes in modern journalism, but for Davis and the legal team the main challenge was to keep calm and make sure proper processes were followed to avoid any potential corporate liability. Davis had been exposed to the challenges of media controversy early in her career. In 1995 a dispute over the 1989 British film, Visions of Ecstasy, which had been refused certification by the British Board of Film Classification, was taken to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Davis, who had just finished her traineeship and was working as a solicitor at the law firm Stephens Innocent, was handed her first big case.

Davis’ role at Guardian Media Group is wide-ranging and covers everything from international corporate M&A to IP and licensing, though she thinks this is consistent with the professional trajectory of in-house counsel more generally. ‘The remit and perception of in-house lawyers has changed beyond recognition’, says Davis. ‘A successful in-house team is not just an adjunct in your system, it is a core part of the organisation and has the advantage of being so [central] to many things that it can act as the connective tissue.’

Davis joined The Guardian in 2001 as a commercial lawyer and has been the Guardian Media Group’s commercial legal director since 2010.


‘The demand for content is growing exponentially. If you want to be front and centre of the new revolution you’ve got to keep pace with that.’

Andrew Garard: Group legal director and company secretary, ITV

Team headcount: 87

Law firms used: Charles Russell Speechlys, DLA Piper, Hogan Lovells, Olswang, Reed Smith, Slaughter and May, Squire Patton Boggs, Wiggin

ITV’s Andrew Garard is frequently held up by peers and private practice partners as the epitome of a business-savvy general counsel (GC). As legal leader of the broadcaster since 2008, he serves in a wide-ranging role dealing with legal, risk, regulatory, compliance and sits as an executive board member.

For Garard, managing expectations of external counsel is a high priority, with ITV becoming one of the first major clients in the UK to champion a move away from hourly billing in 2008. Garard has also rolled out an initiative, alongside head of legal Barry Matthews, to embed its panel firms in the fabric of the organisation by involving them in a programme of training and development with its lawyers, and launched a social mobility plan involving private practice pairings with Microsoft, Yahoo! and MTV.

In 2015 he launched a panel review to extend its roster of eight law firms by four. For the first time, the panel was expanded to include more of an international element, with local firms in countries such as the Netherlands – where the British company recently acquired Talpa Media – among the new additions.

‘Every company is still looking at its cost base, quite intensively,’ says Garard. ‘That leads to consideration of what you keep in-house and what you release to the outside world – therein lies the value in what you do.’

Trained at Freshfields, Garard forged his career in-house during the 1990s as GC and company secretary at Reuters, where his roles included global head of legal based in the UK and Asia GC based in Hong Kong. Prior to joining ITV Garard was GC and company secretary at Cable & Wireless, where he was responsible for global legal, regulatory, compliance and insurance affairs, and briefly a partner at LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae.

And having spent eight years at ITV where the media and telecoms sector has witnessed the explosion of social media, Garard predicts continued growth of global media giants as corporates tussle for market share. He says: ‘Most of the companies have worked out that one way of differentiating their offering is having unique content. There are increasingly limited places to get that. Big media companies keep getting bigger – it’s a deal frenzy. The demand for content is growing exponentially. People are watching more content, are glued to their device and finding new ways to occupy their commuting time. If you want to be front and centre of the new revolution you’ve got to keep pace [with] that.’

High on Garard’s agenda is dealing with the toughening regulatory landscape accompanying such unprecedented growth. With ITV the most heavily regulated broadcaster in the UK, Garard predicts the company is facing more scrutiny coming down the line from Brussels and Westminster over advertising high sugar foods before the watershed.


Priscilla Hughes: Senior vice president and general counsel Europe and Asia, Thomson Reuters

Team headcount: 24 (UK)

Law firms used: Allen & Overy, Burges Salmon, Kemp Little, Linklaters, Mayer Brown

Brooklyn-bred Priscilla Hughes is senior vice president and general counsel (GC) for Europe and Asia, where she also assumes global responsibility for M&A transactions.

Major matters she has overseen include the business information group’s 2013 acquisition of Practical Law Company, a UK-based legal publisher which has more than 750 employees across its operations in London and New York that is now part of Thomson Reuters’ legal product portfolio as well as the company’s entry into the legal process outsourcing market in 2010 with the acquisition of outsourcing firm Pangea3.

In addition to managing complex M&A transactions, Hughes is highly regarded for her expertise in strategic alliances, public offerings, and debt and equity financings, and in the areas of intellectual property and securities regulation.

Hughes worked hard to forge her legal career: she was accepted into Fordham University’s law programme and attended part time while working at law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges, giving her a taste for corporate law. Thereafter she was recruited by Shearman & Sterling, where she spent a decade cutting her teeth on corporate deals before taking partnership at Morrison & Foerster, where she eventually took the role of M&A co-head. In 2005 her client, Canada-based Thomson Financial, offered her an in-house role following which the company underwent a dramatic transformation and merged with Reuters. Hughes initially took the role of GC for the Americas for the newly-globalised company and in 2012 assumed the management of M&A transactions under her remit.

For Hughes, these days it is less about driving deals as the company has cut down significantly on acquisitions in favour of organic growth, spending just $37m on M&A in 2015 compared to around $950m between 2009 and 2013.

Based in London, Hughes is also known to be an advocate for gender diversity, and she and her team previously introduced a company-led programme to sponsor and help women train as solicitors in collaboration with the Lord Mayor’s Trust.


Mine Hifzi: Chief legal officer, Virgin Media

Team headcount: 30

Law firms used: Allen & Overy, Bird & Bird, Bond Dickinson, Burges Salmon, Dentons, Harbottle & Lewis, Herbert Smith Freehills, Macfarlanes

Described as ‘hard-working,’ and ‘hugely supportive’, Mine Hifzi took over the general counsel (GC) role at Virgin Media in 2014, after it completed an overhaul of its executive following a £15bn acquisition by Liberty Global.

Hifzi was previously senior vice president of commercial and legal affairs for Scripps Networks Interactive, where she held a combined business development, commercial strategy and legal role. She also spent 14 years heading up the international legal and government affairs team at Discovery Communications, and prior to that worked in senior positions at Turner Broadcasting System Europe and United International Pictures.

As GC, Hifzi reports directly to chief executive Tom Mockridge on Virgin Media’s executive board. She leads the 30-strong legal team in dealing with all matters relating to the UK business and certain areas of the overseas business. A complete overhaul of the team followed the Liberty acquisition, with Hifzi credited for boosting morale while ensuring the business received the high-quality and responsive support that it needed.

Says one partner in private practice: ‘She recognises that in order for team members to successfully partner with the business, they need to be aligned and treat the business as if they’re a part of it. She encourages lawyers to get involved in critical matters from an early stage – the result is lawyers have an opportunity to make a real difference.’

There are a range of challenges faced by Hifzi and her legal team this year. In February the company revealed a 38% surge in annual profits thanks to record customer growth, just weeks after announcing around 900 jobs were under threat. The company also enjoyed a surge in broadband customer numbers, which offset high numbers of TV subscribers leaving following a recent price rise.

Virgin Media also added more than 250,000 homes and businesses to its cable network under its £3bn Project Lightning investment to deliver ultra-fast broadband across the UK and Ireland. The group plans to expand its network reach by four million to 17 million by the end of 2019.


‘My role is less about the law and more about tactics.’

Nilema Bhakta-Jones: Group legal director, Ascential

Team headcount: Four

Law firms used: DLA Piper, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, Norton Rose Fulbright, Olswang, Travers Smith

With its February listing, Ascential – formerly Top Right Group – has come full circle on a journey it started in 2008 when its predecessor Emap delisted from the London Stock Exchange. Nilema Bhakta-Jones, group legal director at Ascential, has been with the company for this entire journey, accompanying it under the leadership of three different chief executives and two significant reorganisations.

Bhakta-Jones joined Emap – which owned some of the UK’s best-known radio stations and consumer magazines – in February 2007 on a six-month maternity leave cover. By the end of her tenure, she was group legal director helping to oversee the process of breaking the company into independent operating entities. This delisting and divestment was Bhakta-Jones’ first-ever M&A transaction and was conducted with her as sole in-house counsel.

The London-headquartered business publisher and events company has gone through a number of product launches since that time and now sells into 150 countries and operates 14 offices worldwide. Ascential’s listing has led Bhakta-Jones to face a lot of new issues. ‘Transferring into a plc world is always a challenge,’ she says, ‘but the fact that we already operated a compliance and risk programme, which you wouldn’t necessarily operate as a private company, made it a lot easier. We are investing to bring us up to plc standard, but we are comfortable that we are managing legal risk symbiotically with the business’s growth.’

Bhakta-Jones also acts as general counsel (GC) to Ascential subsidiary business Cannes Lions, which hosts the advertising industry’s largest festival each year, and oversees the GCs embedded within Ascential’s other three divisions: events business i2i; fashion trends forecasting business WGSN; and magazines division Plexus.

‘The GCs report directly to business but it’s important that I am involved in the most difficult stuff across any of our subsidiaries, whether that’s so I can work with the board or help with horizon scanning for the company as a whole. My role is less about law and more about tactics and strategy or getting the management comfortable with a particular approach.’


‘We are moving into more legal skills, not less.’

Claire Carless: UK general counsel and company secretary, Siemens

Team headcount: 70

Law firms used: Eversheds (UK panel), Osborne Clarke, Reed Smith

When Stephenson Harwood-trained Claire Carless joined Siemens in 2012 from Vodafone as its new general counsel, she had big shoes to fill succeeding longstanding legal chief Gerard Gent, who had been in the role for 16 years.

No stranger to the in-house legal community, Carless had already served as commercial legal director at Vodafone for two years, where she was responsible for a team of 50 lawyers across five jurisdictions. Prior to this, she spent eight years at National Power, managing all legal and process aspects of the de-merger of the company’s international division to create International Power in 2000.

At Siemens Carless had to cope with significant structural change to her team as part of the wider development of the business – where previously her legal team was aligned to Siemens’ four business sectors of energy, healthcare, industry, and infrastructure and cities, this has been further broken down into nine divisions. Legal teams in larger countries now take responsibility for smaller neighbouring jurisdictions, such as the UK overseeing legal work in Ireland, and Nigeria for Ghana. Carless also notably reduced the company’s UK panel of firms from four to three in 2013 to establish better understanding between those firms of Siemens’ businesses and create greater efficiencies.

One of her biggest challenges of late has been delegating mandates more effectively, and ‘working out what needs the full Rolls-Royce service and what can be farmed out or handled by non-lawyers’. Carless comments: ‘The staff balance within the legal team means we’re moving to more legal skills, not less. We are trying to get more people who do higher risk, higher value work and push the rest down into a lower bucket that’s not really even legal.’

In a boost to the UK economy and wind industry, in 2014 Siemens invested £160m in wind turbine production and installation facilities in Yorkshire, as well as an additional £160m in Green Port Hull.

With 25 years’ experience as an in-house lawyer, for Carless it is important to find the right balance between being a business partner with the company and focusing on what you’re good at.

She concludes: ‘We could spend a lot of time doing all sorts of things and embed ourselves in the business, but the question is should we? Should we do that or should we instead be the legal function and just take the info we need on a transaction? It’s a difficult balance, especially when resources are becoming more limited. We maybe need to step back and stop flattering ourselves that we’re trusted commercial advisers. We are lawyers and we should focus on what we’re good at.’


For further analysis, see: GC Powerlist 2016

Continue reading “Technology, Media and Telecoms”

Transport, Infrastructure and Real Estate

Transport, Infrastructure and Real Estate

‘The Queen must be worried about the heady rise. Rob’s got to go in.’

Rob Booth: General counsel and company secretary, The Crown Estate

Team headcount: 16

Law firms used: Bond Dickinson, Burges Salmon, Gowling WLG, Hogan Lovells, King & Wood Mallesons, Norton Rose Fulbright

Featured as a rising star in the 2014 edition of the GC Power List, The Crown Estate’s recently-appointed general counsel (GC), Rob Booth, now ranks in his own right as a prominent legal chief in real estate. He was chosen to succeed the high-profile director of business operations and GC Vivienne King following an internal restructuring last October.

Booth joined The Crown Estate in 2012 after eight years at Herbert Smith. Now just four months into the GC role for a company with £13bn of assets under management, he reports directly to The Crown Estate chief executive Alison Nimmo and is responsible for legal services at board level and across the business; including Regent Street and much of St James’s in central London; one of the UK’s largest portfolios of prime regional retail and leisure assets; around 340,000 acres of rural land; as well as the UK seabed and around half the foreshore.

Booth has been instrumental in driving forward a series of initiatives to strengthen relationships with external legal advisers on his panel, including targeted reward.

In recent years, he has played a key role in assisting and informing the government on the devolution of The Crown Estate’s activities in Scotland, including several appearances in front of parliamentary committees in Westminster and Holyrood.

Hogan Lovells chair Nicholas Cheffings says: ‘Dealing with both the arcane and the commercial – a norm for an organisation that traces its roots to William the Conqueror – Rob has skilfully ensured that devolution discussions are undertaken in an informed manner.’

Cheffings adds: ‘Rob has been at the cutting edge of the law. The nature of The Crown Estate’s public status and independent commercial mandate adds a unique and challenging dynamic to his role. In a very short time in an in-house role, Rob has shown himself to be mature beyond his years. He is not fazed by new challenges and he has rapidly become a critical component in The Crown Estate’s executive team.’

Another head of property at a leading City firms says of Booth: ‘The Queen must be worried about the heady rise. Rob’s got to go in [the GC Powerlist].’


Matt Wilson: Legal director, UK Ireland and Nordics, Uber Technologies

Team headcount: Four

Law firms used: Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells, Shepherd and Wedderburn

With an in-house team barely a year old, Uber Technologies legal chief for UK, Ireland and the Nordics, Matt Wilson, is quickly building a reputation for handling major hurdles for one of the world’s fastest-growing companies.

Described as an ‘outstanding lawyer with a brilliant career’, the Baker & McKenzie-trained Wilson specialised in commercial, media and IT law in his formative years, before making the move in-house to Telefónica’s O2 branch as legal counsel. Further stints as a company lawyer included Arsenal Football Club, where he worked on licensing issues, IT contract work, disputes, sports law and regulatory matters.

Telefónica re-hired Wilson as senior business affairs counsel for its digital arm, where he was promoted to head of legal and business affairs. There, he managed major partner relationships and led on major transactional work, including the company’s global partnership negotiations with Spotify and Sony PlayStation, a deal that enabled customers to pay for digital goods and services using their mobile phone bill.

He became Uber’s first domestic UK lawyer in July 2015, a move that ‘shows his broad repertoire of achievements and consistent performance far beyond his experience level.’ In early December 2015, Uber was reported as bigger than any San Francisco technology start-up, including Twitter, and valued at about $62.5bn worldwide – a 200% year-on-year growth rate.

Wilson has dealt with a number of competition-related matters since his arrival. In October, Uber defeated a High Court challenge from Transport for London over the legality of its app in London, while in December Mayor of London Boris Johnson concluded proposals for minicab regulation that would stem the growth of Uber, part of an ongoing campaign to preserve London’s black cabs.

Wilson further handles marketing and advertising issues, negotiating small claims matters and driving the expansion of Uber outside London, which involves dealing with compliance regulation of local authorities on top of legislation.

One recommendation says: ‘[Wilson] has shown the ability to win the trust of senior decision-makers, making him a highly regarded lawyer. He is an innovative thinker who always looks to find creative solutions and suggest alternative approaches without compromising corporate governance. The combination of legal and commercial skills make him the epitome of a lawyer who gets the deal done.’


Julian Homerstone: General counsel, Virgin Atlantic Airways

Team headcount: Nine

Law firms used: Bird & Bird, Burges Salmon, Dentons, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Harbottle & Lewis, Herbert Smith Freehills, Macfarlanes

Previously an aviation lawyer at DLA Piper, Julian Homerstone joined Virgin Atlantic in 2002, becoming general counsel three years ago.

He now leads a nine-strong legal team at Britain’s second-largest long-haul carrier, managing an annual legal spend of £5m and advising on strategy relating to the worldwide activities of operating companies within the Virgin Atlantic Group.

Homerstone is noted for his ‘ability to translate complex legal issues into commercially effective solutions for the business’ and his ‘commitment to communicating in a business-effective manner’. He is further cited for effectively managing the competing interests of stakeholders within Virgin Atlantic, as well as the many external stakeholders such as customers, trading partners, worldwide regulators and investors.

One recent achievement was his role leading Virgin Atlantic to complete a groundbreaking £220m secured bond financing in December 2015, using a major proportion of the airline’s slots at Heathrow Airport. The high-profile deal was the first-ever successfully completed for this asset class in Europe. As a transaction that required a considerable degree of innovation to succeed, it involved major operational considerations for Virgin Atlantic as well as a raft of complex employment, tax, regulatory, contractual and financial legal issues.

One private practice observer comments: ‘Julian sat at the heart of the Virgin Atlantic team working on the transaction and making key decisions on these issues. He was also the primary co-ordinator for the broader transaction team, including the investment bank and more than five different law firms who worked on aspects of the deal.’


Philip Bramwell: Group general counsel, BAE Systems

Team headcount: 130

Law firms used: Addleshaw Goddard, Allen & Overy, Blake Morgan, Eversheds, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith Freehills, Linklaters, Pinsent Masons

From a student majoring in chemical engineering to becoming the legal chief at BAE Systems, the third-largest defence group in the world, group general counsel Philip Bramwell has come a long way in forging a reputation as one of the in-house community’s most respected lawyers.

One of the pioneering generation of lawyers that actively targeted a career in-house at the birth of employed profession as a genuine branch, Bramwell has worked across a range of sectors and matured into one of the most seasoned GCs in the UK, able to marshal first-rate presentational and communication skills.

Major in-house roles in the last 30 years have included serving as European GC of BellSouth Corporation before moving to BT as chief counsel for M&A in 1998, followed by O2 as GC and company secretary in 2001. Since his arrival at BAE in 2006, he has ensured sustained development of the company’s legal division, which has doubled in size while headcount in compliance has quadrupled and litigation costs have fallen by 80%.

Understandably, Bramwell disagrees with the cliché of a career in-house being an easy option. He says: ‘I never knew who perpetrated the myth. In-house lawyers are mainly freed from the tyranny of the billable hour. But it’s only to be replaced of course by the tyranny of corporate life and deadlines… and public scrutiny. While the pressures are different, they are not necessarily lower in corporate life, it’s just different practice.’

Admired as a ‘legal leader’ by BT group GC Dan Fitz, significant work handled by Bramwell in recent years includes the high-profile competition investigation by US prosecutors and the Serious Fraud Office over a £6bn arms deal with Saudi Arabia – where he eventually negotiated a £286m settlement. And with the current backdrop of heightened security threats, the company manages a range of government contracts, including roughly 40% of company revenues coming from the US alone. In January, BAE signed a $400m deal with the Pentagon to develop protective electronic warfare systems for one of the largest transport aircrafts in the military fleet.

Set to carry out a UK-focused panel review in 2017, one Bramwell doesn’t expect to ‘radically change’, he adds: ‘When I look at young secondees we have from law firms, their overwhelming impression is they are given far more responsibility and accountability in-house. The rigour of the work – the requirement for it to be right and deliver world-class advice in a timely, cost-effective way, means the pressure is great.’


Mark Packer: General counsel Europe, Lend Lease

Team headcount: 20

Law firms used: DAC Beachcroft, Eversheds, Herbert Smith Freehills, Linklaters, Nabarro, Pinsent Masons

Lend Lease chose the ‘demanding but fair’ Mark Packer to fill the role of EMEA general counsel after its longstanding chief Patrick Gloyens resigned from the role in the summer of 2014. Packer, who before joining Sydney-headquartered Lend Lease in 2009 was co-head of real estate finance at Eversheds, had headed the development, investment management and continental European businesses before taking the role.

Packer is credited for his co-ordination of the sale of Lend Lease’s final stake in Bluewater shopping centre to Land Securities for £696m. With a complex lease structure, which required a property and corporate reorganisation before its acquisition, the deal required a close-out of the debt under which the shopping centre was originally developed and Lend Lease faced litigation from Prudential to clear an alleged pre-emption claim.

This year saw Packer handle legal issues on the property giant’s joint venture with London and Continental Railways in relation to a 22-acre site next to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, known as the International Quarter. Both Deutsche Bank and Legal & General’s retirement arm made an investment. An advocate for greater diversity in business as well as health and wellbeing for the workforce, Packer chairs the company’s not-for-profit organisation Be Onsite, aimed at encouraging people to return to or become involved in projects.

One admirer says: ‘Typical of Mark, he doesn’t just want the job title, he wants to make a difference and sees clearly what he needs to get the job done. He is a team player who brings the most out of internal and external legal teams for the benefit of the business. I have never seen him visibly stressed or panicked despite the volume of work and responsibility he carries.’


Richard Tapp: Director of legal services and company secretary, Carillion

Team headcount: 30

Law firms used: Ashurst, Clyde & Co, Clarkslegal, DLA Piper, FBC Manby Bowdler, Kennedys, Linklaters, MacRoberts, Pinsent Masons, RPC, Slaughter and May

‘Over the next five years 20% of jobs will be automated,’ says Richard Tapp, Carillion’s forward-thinking head of legal. ‘GCs [general counsel] have been slow to reflect on what this will mean for the legal profession. In a very conservative profession like law, the way people organise their work hasn’t really changed in decades. The question I ask is whether it’s because the nature of the work can’t be reorganised or because the law is an innately conservative profession?’

One of a handful of pioneers shaping the management of in-house legal services over the last decade, Tapp is often cited as one of the earliest adopters of innovative business ideas, including helping establish the construction giant’s own legal outsourcing arm, Carillion Advice Services (CAS).

Originally intended as a legal aid advice centre, cuts to the legal aid budget led to CAS being remodelled as an outsourcing centre to both Carillion’s own business and other corporate legal teams. This flexibility, Tapp says, is something he and the in-house team have to demonstrate on a daily basis.

‘A big part of our business is public sector outsourcing and the perspectives of government change on a regular basis, which means we have to ensure that we are contracting on acceptable terms and conditions with acceptable levels of risk,’ he says.

Major projects handled by Tapp’s team recently include the company’s bid for a share in £900m work preparing the ground for the first stage of the HS2 high-speed railway project between London and the West Midlands in December, and last year’s £200m contract to provide facilities management services for public sector prisons.

Tapp adds: ‘Everyone expects professions to use checklists to make sure professionals are doing their jobs properly and law is one of the most professional professions, so to speak. The law is itself a form of check list, so why not do things in a smarter way?’

Having co-authored the book Managing External Legal Resources, another major focus on Tapp’s agenda is ethics and compliance issues, where the team ensures it is ‘culturally where it needs to be and testing that robustly’. Last year it received the investing in integrity award run by the Institute of Business Ethics. ‘That was a fairly major undertaking requiring audits and monitoring, but it showed the legal team is committed to being the fence, not the ambulance,’ he says.

Tapp is currently editing another book, for publication this year, drawing on a range of pieces from senior GCs.


Perspectives: Matt Wilson, general counsel, Uber

Tell us about your career so far…

I trained in the TMT team at Baker & McKenzie, a 50/50 split between contentious and non-contentious work. You come out with a half-decent skillset. In 2008 I was on secondment to Oracle – doing some work for O2. I really enjoyed the in-house way of doing things – close to the business and not dipping in and out. Both Oracle and O2 offered me a job. O2 was the one for me – it was really exciting. I reported to Ed Smith for three years, he’s a good friend. I did a fantastic array of work from heavy duty commercial contracts to the regulatory side. My first taste of line management experience… and working for a company that was growing very fast.

I moved to Arsenal in 2010 and had a brilliant time. I’m a massive fan – born and bred since I was six-years old standing on the terraces with my old man… I couldn’t resist. After a year being there, I realised it was very seasonal in every sense of the word and the kind of work you do repeats itself.

‘Uber had a job come up. It was too interesting to turn down. They didn’t have a lawyer in the UK, which was nuts.’

Telefónica came to me, they’d just launched Telefónica Digital and the job was based in London under the old chief executive Matthew Key covering a mixture of venture capital work and global partnership deals with Uber and Facebook. They asked me to come on board with a view to leading a team over time. Six months in, I got the head of legal role in one of the divisions and was there for three years. That was a great experience. Three years had passed, we were doing the transaction to sell Hutchison to Whampoa and Uber had a job come up. It was too interesting a challenge to turn down. Uber didn’t have a lawyer in the UK, which was nuts. They had a few in Amsterdam but most were in the US – it’s grown hugely since I’ve come on board. We’re up to over 150 lawyers worldwide, the majority in the US but it’s going to equalise.

Describe a working day at Uber…

Whatever you think you have on your list for that day will be nothing like you imagine unless you’re going to court. I’m typically e-mailing on the way into work, and then there’s a whole diet of stuff to deal with, whether it’s new product launches that involve getting together with our finance teams and lawyers in other divisions and discussing how to implement products we’re launching globally or on a local level. I deal with marketing queries and operational issues, licensing and authorities. What people don’t realise about Uber is the core bit of business is private hire in the UK – we essentially have 50 regulators. We are a fully licensed legal business in the UK and licensed by 50 jurisdictions, including TfL – outside London we have to go to every different council – there are 300 in the UK and we’re in all the major cities. It’s growing really well.

There’s a lot of heated debate around Uber. What have been the company’s biggest problems?

The major challenge is our competitors use the law to stoke the tensions between it and the rise of technology to try to slow us down. And with our public policy colleagues, we fight against that. I remember thinking on my first day: ‘I’ve never seen a bunch of people so glad to see a lawyer.’ There was a queue at my desk. You end up with a long list of things to do and never getting to the bottom of it. The sheer volume of what the legal team has to deal with as the business grows is staggering.

We’re facing more of the same challenges. UberPool was one product and now we’re looking to launch a wheelchair-assisted product in London. That shows another side of Uber, the caring side! That’s somewhere we can really improve. Uber has this certain reputation globally and internally I can say, hand on heart: it’s not like that. We need to get a lot better at telling our story. The other main challenge is helping the business to scale and grow in a structured way. As for the argument put forward by the black taxis, we welcome the levelling of the playing field and the market being as competitive as possible in London and across the UK. We don’t want to see the black taxis die in any way. We would like there to be a good competitive market for consumers.

‘I remember thinking on my first day: “I’ve never seen a bunch of people so glad to see a lawyer.” There was a queue at my desk.’

What should happen to the taxi market?

TfL will not press ahead with some of the more controversial things that would have harmed our business. We worked very hard to show that it would have a detrimental effect on our business and on consumers and the potential for drivers to make money. That would have been really unfair. Our US competitor Lyft has not launched in London specifically because London operates a licensed model. In the UK the barriers to entry are pretty high compared to the US. If we saw some of those barriers relax with peer-to-peer legislation allowing normal people like you and me to register our cars for the purpose of sharing trips that would really open the market up considerably. It will be interesting to see the government’s attitude to bringing in that legislation to enable those kind of services. The benefits to those types of services are reducing car ownership, reducing congestion… and it makes everything more fluid.


Maria da Cunha: Director of people and legal and government affairs, British Airways

Team headcount: 813 (including 20 lawyers)

Law firms used: Baker & McKenzie, Linklaters, Slaughter and May

A former barrister, Maria da Cunha joined British Airways (BA) in January 2000 as the airline’s first competition law specialist. She was appointed legal chief of BA in 2009, taking over the job from Robert Webb QC who returned to the Bar, stepping into the role at a time when BA was in expansion mode, having agreed to merge with Spanish airline Iberia to create one of the world’s largest airline groups.

Since then, the aviation industry has become fertile ground for general counsel, with key developments including greater regulation, the rollout of group class actions and significant M&A activity. As such, da Cunha has been afforded a range of interesting work during her tenure at the UK’s largest airline carrier.

Last year presented a major challenge when BA was the lead defendant in a £1bn case against 23 airlines for colluding to inflate air freight prices by fixing fuel and security surcharges. BA was fined €104m for its involvement in the cartel by the European Commission and an appearance at the High Court followed. The case was controversial, with the then-presiding High Court Justice Peter Smith having to recuse himself from deciding on the claim against BA over a rant about his luggage during a hearing.


Chris Brierley: Head of legal, M&G Real Estate

Team headcount: Four

Law firms used: CMS Cameron McKenna, Gowling WLG, Hogan Lovells

Building a name for himself as a figurehead in the real estate industry, legal chief Chris Brierley oversees the in-house legal function for M&G Real Estate, the investment arm of Prudential. He made the move in-house to asset management group FRM (part of Man Group) from Stephenson Harwood in 2008, which was followed by a year-long stint as senior legal counsel at BlackRock in 2013 before taking the top legal role at M&G Real Estate two years ago.

Across a range of interviews with real estate advisers, Brierley was one of the outstanding property general counsel to receive multiple nominations.

As one of the City’s top property partners said: ‘Who do I rate? Chris Brierley.’

Brierley recently finalised the company’s external legal panel with places allocated to Gowling WLG, Hogan Lovells and CMS Cameron McKenna following a tender process. He also uses secondees on a daily basis.

With over £22.5bn of assets under management, company activity last year generated a slew of transactional work for the M&G transaction management team where the company bought and sold £4.2bn of property, taking the total level of transactions to over £11bn over the last three years. This included £2.6bn of new acquisitions, notably Bloomberg Place in London and Bedfont Lakes Office Park near Heathrow Airport.

The company added to its international portfolio too and bought a €175m office block in Madrid and completed a $230m deal to acquire three retail assets in South Korea. Brierley also worked on M&G’s acquisition from EY as administrators of 500,000 sq ft of prime Manchester office space. The deal involved the purchase of two properties on behalf of two separate funds for over £300m and was one of the largest-ever regional office deals in the UK.


Andrew Garner: General counsel, Associated British Ports

Team headcount: Four

Law firms used: Acuity Legal, Addleshaw Goddard, Andrew Jackson Solicitors, Ashurst, Birketts, Bond Dickinson, Capital Law, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Geldards, Hill Dickinson, Macfarlanes, Osborne Clarke, Paris Smith, Simmons & Simmons, Slaughter and May, Winckworth Sherwood

Andrew Garner is praised for handling a ‘challenging role’ at Associated British Ports (ABP), which owns and operates 21 ports around the UK and manages around 25% of the UK’s seaborne trade. Garner was appointed to head the legal division in 2005 after joining from travel operator First Choice. Just one year in, he was successfully navigating the company through a multibillion-pound takeover by a consortium of private investors comprising Borealis, GIC, Goldman Sachs and Prudential.

Garner’s responsibilities typically range from handling customer contracts to dealing with the fallout from marine collisions. Highlight mandates include the company’s major investment at Green Port Hull, the single biggest investment in the port of Hull since it was constructed 200 years ago.

His other key challenge is keeping up with growing levels of regulation and legislation. As such Garner is concerned about the forthcoming Brexit referendum this June. ‘Regulation does not just come from the EU, although it seems to promulgate quite a lot of it. It is a challenge. We would prefer to stay in a reformed Europe but we back the view that there ought to be reforms of the EU and the way it operates.’

Garner takes a flexible view on dealing with external advisers and does not have a formal panel. Instead he calls on a roster of up to 23 firms, which is split into two camps and comprises some regionally-based and close to ports and others that do more centralised work. Annual external legal spend is generally between £1m and £3m, but this varies from year to year and depends on whether ABP is involved in major development projects or heavy litigation.

He says: ‘We very rarely use anyone and certainly don’t have fixed relationships. We’re all corporate and commercial lawyers and as a company our money comes from customer contracts. We’re better at doing it than firms because we know our business and the people we usually deal with.’

Says one admiring partner: ‘Garner is a strong pick. ABP is a challenging role.’


‘One of the best GCs around.’

Suzanne Wise: Group general counsel and company secretary, Network Rail

Team headcount: 32

Law firms used: Addleshaw Goddard, Bond Dickinson, Clifford Chance, Dentons, Eversheds, Kennedys, Maclay Murray & Spens, Winckworth Sherwood

Becoming the group general counsel (GC) for a public sector body with an annual turnover of £6.3bn and around 34,000 employees is an achievement for anyone, but Network Rail’s Suzanne Wise stands out in her own right as ‘one of the best GCs around,’ according to Clifford Chance project finance partner Gavin Teague.

Trained at Lewis Silkin, Wise cut her teeth as an associate at commercial law boutique Crossman Block (now RadcliffesLeBrasseur) before embarking on a career in-house at tobacco company Gallaher Group in 1989. She spent 19 years at the company and ascended to group head of legal in 2000, working for the company during its restructuring phase and built up her experience working on disposals of the non-tobacco businesses in the group, including being heavily involved in the 1997 demerger from its American parent company American Brands and the subsequent listing on the London Stock Exchange.

Eight years later Wise was recruited by UK food producer Premier Foods as GC and company secretary for four years before taking the top legal job at Network Rail, a position she was initially unsure of taking considering her lack of engineering knowledge and never having worked in a regulated industry before. Since then her role has offered major challenges, particularly as the transport giant transformed from a private company to an arm’s-length body of the Department for Transport (DfT), with Wise and her team credited for negotiating with the DfT what that would mean for Network Rail’s governance and processes.

In 2013 Wise took stock of Network Rail’s external adviser relationships, cutting its law firm panel from 12 to five core advisers. Wise did, however, retain a trio of firms for work in specialist areas, including Clifford Chance for treasury/capital markets matters; Kennedys for health and safety and regulatory enforcement; and Winckworth Sherwood for public law. She simultaneously brought in key performance indicators for law firms while continuing to extend fixed-fee arrangements and a system where parts of the Network Rail business can go direct to panel law firms for certain categories of work.

High on the organisation’s agenda this year is Network Rail’s potential sale of its power network as part of a broader shake-up to raise more than £1.8bn and bolster its finances. Made public in February, it follows the state-owned company’s review of a host of disposals to help plug the funding shortfall in its delayed £38bn railway upgrade plan. The company announced in 2015 that it would raise £1.8bn from the sale of railway arches, car parks and advertising hoardings.


Carol Hui: General counsel, Heathrow Airport Holdings

Team headcount: 30

Law firms used: Allen & Overy, Berwin Leighton Paisner, Blake Morgan, Brodies, Eversheds, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith Freehills, Pinsent Masons

Slaughter and May-trained Carol Hui has forged a reputation as one of the most experienced and respected general counsel (GCs) around, with a long and varied career under her belt, which includes starting her in-house career at British Gas.

Hui broadened her credentials when she moved to construction group Amey as GC in 2000, and ran that team for the best part of a decade before being headhunted to push through a major shake-up of the legal team at Heathrow, the UK’s largest airport operator and one of the world’s largest transport concerns, then named BAA.

Since then, a career highlight for the corporate lawyer has been her involvement with Heathrow’s bid to gain support for a third runway, a plan that would raise its capacity from 480,000 flights a year to a projected estimate of 740,000.

The plans are tied up in a politically charged debate over policy on airport expansion. Hui played a significant role in drawing up the proposals, and became executive sponsor for Heathrow’s capacity programme. The Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, made a ‘clear and unanimous’ recommendation last June that an extra runway should be built at Heathrow, but in December the government further prolonged the debate by only agreeing that a new runway was needed, deferring a final response on its location. A final decision is expected this July.

Like many other GCs, high on Hui’s agenda this year will be the upcoming Brexit referendum in June and she says: ‘A vote to remain offers the best of both worlds – it secures the UK’s place as a powerhouse in the global economy, while remaining in the world’s largest free trade zone.’ Heathrow’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye warns that leaving the European Union would bring a serious blow to British businesses, echoing the sentiment by key figures in the aviation industry.


Helen Mason: General counsel, Morgan Sindall Group

Team headcount: Six

Law firms used: Pinsent Masons, RPC, Slaughter and May

Having joined Morgan Sindall Group as its first GC from Fieldfisher in 2014, Helen Mason is cited by peers as a lawyer with ‘extremely high emotional intelligence’; the ‘ability to form personal connections’; and having ‘a good eye for foreseeing legal risk to the business’.

The UK construction and regeneration group has a diverse portfolio of services, with five divisions comprising construction and infrastructure, fit-out work, affordable housing, and urban regeneration and investments.

Since joining, Mason has advised on two multimillion-pound disputes simultaneously as well as managing the day-to-day legal issues of the group, although revenues increased by 7%. A sign of the turbulent nature of the construction market, and the challenges faced, includes a pre-tax loss of £14.8m for 2015 and the write-off of nearly £47m on two construction contracts for the Ministry of Defence at the Faslane Naval Base in west Scotland.

For Mason, her main priorities include risk management, working on a range of issues from the drafting of building contracts to the employment of senior personnel, but she has also worked on improving the legal team’s accessibility to the business. She says: ‘We’re more part of the business than many lawyers at construction companies. We’re much more personable than most.’

One private practitioner cites her ability to ‘create trust and a perception of value in the legal function across an organisation which historically did not employ in-house lawyers, and was driven very much by the commercial function.’


Hugh Ford: General corporate counsel, Intu Properties

Team headcount: Three

Law firms used: Gowling WLG, Macfarlanes, Ogier

Responsible for all legal affairs for London and Johannesburg-listed Intu Properties and its subsidiaries, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer-trained Hugh Ford has worked in various industries, starting out as a commercial lawyer at British Airways, ascending to the role of general manager for legal at Virgin Atlantic Airways until 2003, before taking the top spot as general corporate counsel at Intu.

Significant matters include the company’s acquisition of a 50% stake in three shopping centres from Westfield for £867.8m in 2014, a deal which required a multi-disciplinary team handling a complex trust and corporate structure. In 2013, Ford advised on Intu’s £250m investment in Midsummer Place Shopping Centre from Legal & General, alongside a team from Wragge & Co.

‘Hugh possesses all of the qualities of a great general counsel.’

While not one of the most well-known names in the broader in-house legal community, Ford has nevertheless impressed by demonstrating ‘good and tested judgement gained through managing and dealing hands-on with complicated and detailed transactions’, according to Macfarlanes senior partner Charles Martin. ‘Hugh possesses all of the qualities of a great general counsel. His communication and project management skills are excellent and he has the presence and gravitas to engender confidence and credibility both with lawyers and commercial teams,’ he says.

With an investment portfolio of properties valued at £8.9bn, the company is largely focused on shopping centre management and development, and subsequent structural change during Ford’s tenure includes the demerger of its subsidiary, Capital & Counties Properties, to form an independent business in 2010.

Ford has also been active in the in-house community on the executive committee of the GC100.

Martin adds: ‘He effectively anticipates and focuses on the important risks arising from a transaction. From the external lawyer’s perspective, it is also always a pleasure to work with Hugh on a transaction as you know he will be supportive and it will be well managed with clear and thorough instructions, with the key issues being identified and addressed from the outset.’


David Eveleigh: Group general counsel and company secretary, Serco Group

Team headcount: Six

Law firms used: Ashurst, Clifford Chance, Linklaters, RPC

David Eveleigh joined FTSE 250 outsourcing company Serco in 2014, replacing company secretary John Hickey, who remained with the company in a senior role. Eveleigh was handed a new, expanded role at Serco overseeing all of the group’s legal affairs.

At the time of Eveleigh’s appointment Serco, along with a number of its competitors, was facing allegations of overcharging for criminal monitoring contracts, ie ‘tagging’. With around a quarter of Serco’s income coming from government contracts, the scandal eventually saw around £600m wiped off the company’s market value in a year that ended with pre-tax losses of around £1.3bn.

Eveleigh’s first task was to provide a steady hand on the tiller and make sure the company returned to a position of strength as soon as possible. He advised on Serco’s £550m rights issue in 2015 and has since played a lead role in a number of important matters that have seen the company’s fortunes improve of late. The group has recently disposed of its Indian business processing outsourcing arm to the private equity firm The Blackstone Group in September to refocus on public sector contracts in the UK and US and what chief executive Rupert Soames has called its ‘sweet spots’ – mainly work for the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Eveleigh will be closely involved with a pipeline of government work for Serco, including instructions from the MoD and justice secretary Michael Gove’s plan to build nine new prisons.

Prior to his move to Serco, Eveleigh was BT Global Services general counsel (GC) and company secretary. During his time at BT Eveleigh sat on the telecoms giant’s global services legal leadership team for the wider BT Group. Prior to this, he was GC for BT’s North American and Latin American operations. Eveleigh started his legal career as an associate at Ashurst Morris Crisp.


For further analysis, see: GC Powerlist 2016

Continue reading “Transport, Infrastructure and Real Estate”

Whitehall, Public Sector and Regulatory

Whitehall, Public Sector and Regulatory

Nick Olley: General counsel, Department for Transport

Team headcount: 93

Law firms used: Addleshaw Goddard, Allen & Overy, Burges Salmon, DLA Piper, Fieldfisher, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Hogan Lovells, Eversheds, Norton Rose Fulbright, Simmons & Simmons, Winckworth Sherwood

Following an extensive recruitment process across Whitehall and beyond, Nick Olley was appointed as legal chief to the Department for Transport (DfT) in 2013, and succeed the high-profile Christopher Muttukumaru, who is now a mediator at Monckton Chambers.

Olley was previously a partner at Burges Salmon, heading up its transport sector group, and previously led its commercial department. Since becoming involved in rail privatisation in the early 1990s, Olley has built up an impressive reputation as a transport specialist. He has previously led large teams and advised on complex transactions.

Significant mandates under his belt since joining DfT include working on the government’s £32bn HS2 high-speed rail network venture, which has seen dozens of lobby groups oppose the project.

The DfT is also embroiled in a dispute with Heathrow Airport over an annual £40m payment to link Crossrail to its stations. Heathrow has paid out more than £1bn building the Heathrow Express line connecting terminals with London’s Paddington station, and the government wants to use part of the line for Crossrail but is resisting the proposed fee.

The legal team is additionally involved in transport aspects of the devolution agenda, which relates to passage of the Scotland Bill, further devolution to Wales and the impact of English devolution, including the framework for sub-national transport bodies, such as Transport for the North.

And, following a report by the Competition and Markets Authority, the legal team is reviewing far-reaching proposals for the replacement of the current franchise system, which was established following privatisation under the 1993 Railways Act, with a licensing scheme on intercity routes.

The DfT will this year also be involved in an initiative to trial driverless lorries in the UK, with the government preparing to fund the trials as part of plans to speed up lorry deliveries, use less fuel, and cut congestion.

One partner at a City law firm comments: ‘Nick Olley is a very good leader. Only a couple of years into his job… he’s making a real success of it.’


Helen Vernon: Chief executive, NHS Litigation Authority

Team headcount: 250

Law firms used: Bevan Brittan, BLM, Browne Jacobson, Capsticks, Clyde & Co, DAC Beachcroft, Hempsons, Hill Dickinson, Kennedys, Ward Hadaway, Weightmans

The NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) appointed Helen Vernon as its chief executive in 2014 to succeed Catherine Dixon, who departed to become chief executive of the Law Society.

Beginning her career within the insurance profession, an interest in healthcare claims took her to the Medical Defence Union before joining the NHSLA in its infancy in 1998.

Vernon has managed complex and high-profile litigation against the NHS, including the Nationwide Organ Retention group action, where the High Court ruled that hospitals acted unlawfully in removing the organs of dead children without their parents’ permission.

The NHSLA is also increasingly contesting additional costs liability in cases where claimants secured legal aid funding prior to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act reforms in 2012. In these cases, claimants were given legal advice to switch to a conditional fee arrangement and after-the-event insurance model before the reforms were introduced in April 2013. Under Vernon’s leadership, the organisation has saved the NHS more than £107m through challenging claimants’ legal costs leading to an average 33% reduction in bills; and has saved more than £1.2bn by rejecting over 4,000 claims without merit, according to its 2014/15 report.

Her agenda since taking leadership relates to managing the costs of clinical negligence levied at the body, figures which are rising. The NHS in England paid out over £1.1bn in 2014/15 to lawyers and to patients who suffered harm, according to 2015 figures, while this year it is expected to total £1.4bn.


Jonathan Jones: Treasury Solicitor and head of the Government Legal Service, Government Legal Department

Team headcount: 1,424

Law firms used: 47 external law firms across eight divisions. The framework will expire in January 2017

Jonathan Jones took up his post as Treasury Solicitor and permanent secretary of the Treasury Solicitor’s Department on 1 March 2014, which rebranded as the Government Legal Department on 1 April 2015.

He serves as the government’s most senior legal official and as permanent secretary of the Government Legal Department, which houses 1,300 lawyers and has an annual budget of £180m, nearly all of which comes from fees charged to other government departments – a combination of hourly rates, usually for litigation work, and fixed fees for advisory work.

Jonathan Jones serves as the government’s most senior legal official.’

The team provides a full range of legal services to government departments and other public bodies, including expert advisory, litigation, commercial and employment law services; drafting statutory instruments and other subordinate legislation; advice on the development of new legislation; preparing instructions for bills to be drafted by parliamentary counsel and assisting in the handling of bills in parliament; and advice on legal policy and practice.

The department is also responsible for collecting, managing and disposing of ownerless property and other assets in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Several government legal teams have been brought into the department over the past two years, including the Home Office and Ministry of Justice under the line management of Jones.

In a period where the public sector is under immense pressure to reduce costs, Jones is tasked with demonstrating the team is working efficiently. Previous roles undertaken by Jones include serving as director general for the Home Office legal advisers branch from 2012-14; deputy Treasury solicitor at the Treasury Solicitor’s Department from 2009-12; director general of the Attorney General’s Office between 2004 and 2009; and legal adviser to the Department for Education.


Geoff Wild: Director of governance and law, Kent County Council

Team headcount: 125

Law firms used: None

With 125 lawyers, Kent County Council’s Geoff Wild is known for leading one of the largest and most forward-thinking teams of local authority lawyers in the UK. Specifically named Kent Legal Services (KLS), it operates as an in-house trading practice that generates its own income, serving over 600 clients nationwide from across the whole of the public sector, including providing ad hoc legal services to over 300 public sector bodies.

Wild has pioneered a structure that makes the legal team as distinct from the council as possible, while still sitting within the local authority’s Maidstone headquarters. Key initiatives include Law:Public, a joint venture with Geldards in 2013, aimed at further extending its geographical reach and the range of services, generating greater cost efficiencies at the same time.

In each of the three years to 2015, KLS averaged a profit of £2.5m on income of £8.5m, while between 2012 and 2015 it reduced the cost of service provision by £1.1m; saved £410,000 with advice on projects that would otherwise have needed external advice, generated £244,000 in income from 206 new external clients, and made £155,000 through various training initiatives.

Additionally it is now handling 1,000 hours of advocacy through in-house resources, five times the amount when the project started, and developed a series of workflows that automate the delivery of legal advice.

Wild is an advocate for pushing the remit of in-house counsel, and dispelling the image of local authority lawyers as bureaucratic civil servants and displaying their talents as entrepreneurs. Under Wild’s reign Kent County Council introduced its first trainee programme in 2013 in a bid to develop the next generation of lawyers.

As leader of the body’s democratic and member services functions, Wild is responsible for supporting the council’s decision-making and scrutiny processes, together with providing key administrative support to elected members. He is also the council’s senior information risk owner and responsible for the team who make sure the authority complies with the legislation that gives people a right to access publicly held information.

Public sector lawyers like Wild looking to reshape the in-house role are often restricted, as the Solicitors Regulation Authority places limits on the services in-house lawyers are able to provide. One option is the acquisition of an alternative business structure (ABS) licence and the council last year issued its tender for a commercial partner for an ABS but has yet to make a decision.

Wild started out in the mid-1980s as an articled clerk at Greater London Council, and served in-house at Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and the London Borough of Wandsworth, before joining Kent in 1989.


Sonya Branch: General counsel, Bank of England

Team headcount: 100

Law firms used: Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Travers Smith

Sonya Branch joined Bank of England (BoE) as general counsel (GC) in May 2015, a month after chief legal adviser Graham Nicholson’s decision to retire. It was a position she accepted amid difficult circumstances for the 322-year-old financial regulator. BoE had faced an independent investigation into its alleged role in manipulation of the foreign exchange market and was subject to an ongoing investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into its activities during the financial crisis, an unusual situation for the central bank of a major and trusted financial centre.

Branch was called upon from day one to help BoE deal with the reputational damage and ensure the investigation was concluded efficiently. Prior to her appointment, Branch held the role of executive director of enforcement and mergers at the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), where she was well regarded as both a lawyer and problem solver.

Having begun her career at Linklaters, Branch was also previously a partner at Clifford Chance, where she specialised in financial services competition law.

Previous public sector positions include a stint at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, as well as a board position at the Office of Fair Trading prior to its merger with the Competition Commission to form the CMA.

The GC role at BoE, which previously carried the title chief legal adviser, is the executive director for the legal directorate – responsible for providing legal advice to the bank as well as its subsidiary, the Prudential Regulation Authority.

High on BoE’s agenda will be contingency planning for the result of the upcoming Brexit referendum on 23 June.


Sean Martin: General counsel, Financial Conduct Authority

Team headcount: 70

Law firms used: Baker & McKenzie, Dentons, Kingsley Napley

Receiving high praise from disputes specialists, including Clifford Chance (CC) veteran litigators Simon Davis and Roger Best, is the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)’s high-profile legal chief Sean Martin.

Martin has built an impressive career in managing legal issues at government bodies. Having trained at Boodle Hatfield, followed by a stint at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, he spent five years at the Treasury Solicitor’s Department’s litigation division until 1998. He then took a year-long career break but ended up taking on a six-month stint at the Department of Justice in Hong Kong. Returning to the Treasury in 1999, Martin’s prominence in-house is evident from his multiple senior roles, serving as legal adviser at the Ministry of Defence, to manager of the law policy and international co-operation department for the enforcement division at the Financial Services Authority (FSA) in 2004. In 2011 he was appointed chief counsel for the markets funds and authorisations department at the body before his promotion to general counsel (GC) in 2013.

Aside from overseeing a team of just over 70 at the UK watchdog, he has been responsible for legal advice and support relating to the transition from the FSA to the new regulatory architecture, now comprising the FCA, the Prudential Regulation Authority and the Financial Policy Committee of the Bank of England.

Martin and his team are known for handling most legal work in-house, which can involve anything from the implementation of EU directives to regulating consumer credit companies. Its most significant work lately has been in the Forex scandal, where in November 2014 it fined five banks £1.1bn for failure to stop traders from manipulation of the foreign exchange market, a sanction that marked the first settlement in a global investigation and the largest-ever imposed by the FCA. It subsequently launched an industry-wide remediation programme to ensure firms address the ‘root causes’ of these failings and drive up standards across the market.

Martin is additionally cited for his handling of an investigation into the FCA itself last year, where it appointed CC’s Davis to report on its behaviour in leaking a business plan to The Telegraph to review certain long-term life assurance products, a move which caused £3bn to be wiped off share values. The report stated that Martin’s preventative approach, including advising the FCA board there was ‘material risk’, was sound.

With the FCA’s much touted senior managers regime coming into force this March, Martin is the most influential GC in the regulatory field.


Alun Milford: General counsel, Serious Fraud Office

Team headcount: 77

Law firms and chambers used: 5KBW, 9-12 Bell Yard, Blackstone Chambers, QEB Hollis Whiteman, Red Lion Chambers, Slaughter and May

Alun Milford became legal chief at the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in April 2012, at a time when the body was lambasted in its investigation of real estate tycoons Vincent and Robert Tchenguiz and a raft of senior staff were exiting for high-profile jobs in the private sector, including his predecessor Vivian Robinson QC, who departed to McGuireWoods.

Since then, the agency has come under serious pressure to build a credible reputation as the UK’s main financial crime prosecutor and redefine itself within a highly politicised arena.

Milford is a key figure for the body with a wide-ranging background in investigating white-collar crime. He joined the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in 1992 after working as a solicitor in a City firm and became a solicitor-advocate in 1999. In 2004 he joined the Attorney General’s Office, specialising in contempt of court and unduly lenient sentences. Three years later, he moved to the Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office, establishing and leading its asset forfeiture division. He returned to the CPS in 2009 and was appointed to lead its organised crime division following its merger with the Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office.

‘Milford is a key figure for the body with a wide-ranging background in investigating white-collar crime.’

While previous regimes had been criticised for a lack of prosecutions, the body has been in a more robust mode of late. The SFO has around 60 live investigations as of February 2016 under director David Green QC’s leadership.

During his time at the helm, Green has opened probes against the Bank of England over liquidity auctions during the financial crisis; supermarket Tesco over accounting irregularities; and engine maker Rolls-Royce over bribery allegations in Indonesia and China. This is against a tight budget with the agency’s annual funding stuck at around £33m for the past four years. SFO prosecutors asked the government for £21m in additional funding in January, the fourth such request in as many years and said £15.5m of this was needed urgently.

Milford has also been engaged with the SFO’s rolling out of the UK’s first deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), a US-style plea-bargain deal, which at the end of 2015 saw the UK arm of Standard Bank agree to pay $33m to settle an investigation into alleged bribes paid to the Tanzanian government to secure a $600m contract. Tesco is understood to be considering a DPA to settle its SFO investigation.


Howard Carter: General counsel, Transport for London

Team headcount: 200

Law firms used: Berwin Leighton Paisner, Dentons, Eversheds, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Gowling WLG, Herbert Smith Freehills, K&L Gates, Lewis Silkin, Trowers & Hamlins

A standout candidate for his work within the public sector, Transport for London (TfL) general counsel Howard Carter manages a wide spectrum of commercial and contentious issues for the biggest integrated public transport network in Europe, which carries more than 3.7 billion passengers annually and manages £23bn worth of assets.

Carter joined TfL in 2006 having been head of legal and procurement at the Greater London Authority for five years. A qualified barrister, he also previously served as director of legal and secretariat at English Heritage and has worked in local government.

Today he leads a full-service legal department, with a 200-strong team comprising 90 lawyers that shares its services across the public sector. Aside from handling TfL’s core commercial work for operations and capital that gets invested into the Underground, Carter also diverts legal resource towards the office of the Mayor of London, the British Transport Police, the London Legacy Development Corporation – which managed real estate deals for the 2012 Olympics – and handling issues over development and regeneration work for the London Transport Museum.

Ongoing issues include the high-profile London Underground strikes organised by employees over pay, safety, pensions and job security. TfL has also proposed a major regulatory crackdown on taxi app Uber, with a compulsory wait rule.

Carter says the team has ‘really been in the eye of the storm on Uber and regulation surrounding private hire of taxis’ but more significant development work is on the horizon. One of the largest land owners in London, TfL announced in October ‘eye-watering’ plans to create 10,000 homes in London with over 300 acres of land put forward for development, in a bid to generate £3.4bn in revenue over the next decade from advertising, sponsorship and property development to reinvest in updating the transport network.

Carter foresees data protection and privacy law as a ‘huge growth area’ for the public sector, while the team will see a new London Mayor elected in 2016, providing a potentially diverging policy landscape for the transport body.

With in-house legal functions clearly much less considered a bolt-on to businesses from the days when Carter started out, he says the hallmarks of a good GC are being ‘flexible and prepared to take on anything’. He adds: ‘Get broad experience – I’ve worked for many organisations which helps you come up with problems in different ways and view things from a different angle. You need to know your business.’


For further analysis, see: GC Powerlist 2016

Continue reading “Whitehall, Public Sector and Regulatory”