Barclays’ search for legal chief in crisis

Year-long hunt leaves legal function rudderless; bank set to raid own panel firms.


The search for a new general counsel at Barclays Bank has descended into chaos after a year-long hunt. Having failed to attract a US in-house lawyer, the bank has resorted to targeting partners from its own panel firms to find a replacement for Howard Trust.

The Lawyer understands that two months ago Barclays had the general counsel of a high-profile US corporate lined up for the job. However, one source said that Barclays’ first choice has turned the bank down because the salary was too low and there was no board position on the bank’s executive committee.

The bank’s headhunting company Korn Ferry has subsequently approached senior partners at Barclays’ panel firms Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and other firms, including CMS Cameron McKenna, despite the fact that a faction of Barclays’ management is understood to be keen to hire a US lawyer.

Trust was slated to retire from one of the UK’s top legal jobs last month. He announced his departure last summer. Korn Ferry, which by then had already been engaged to find a new head of legal at Barclays Capital, the banks’ investment banking division, then took over the search to fill the general counsel post. The headhunter’s London and Chicago offices are both involved in the hunt.

A Barclays insider told The Lawyer one faction at the bank favours the appointment of a general counsel who will simply manage the in-house legal function, while another wants a top-level strategic legal adviser who will sit on the plc’s executive committee.

Another source said the nature of the role had caused “huge internal fights”. Barclays chairman Matt Barrett is North American and is believed to have favoured a US replacement for Trust.

Barclays declined to comment, other than to say the search continues and that it hopes to make an announcement soon.

It is unclear where Trust will go next, although he is expected to stay in his post until a replacement is found.