Courier girl: Rachael Hambrook, DHL Express
15 June 2009 | By Corinne McPartland
As head of legal for DHL Express, Rachael Hambrook is making sure her legal team is part and parcel of the success of the business.
DHL Express has had a global contract with Hard Rock Cafe for almost two years now. The delivery company was responsible for the security and transport of one of Jimi Hendrix’s guitar from Denver, Colorado to Edinburgh’s Hard Rock Cafe earlier this year.
In fact, each month DHL Express transports high-value guitars once played by rock ‘n’ roll legends such as Hendrix or Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley to Hard Rock Cafes throughout the world.
But its remit covers more than just music memorabilia. Among a myriad of other deliveries, the company has also transported electric wheelchairs free of charge to Bosnia in a bid to provide much-needed assistance to the country’s landmine victims.
It also played its part in helping Liverpool Football Club ensure fans got hold of the club’s new European kit by delivering thousands of shirts to supporters throughout the UK in time for the start of the season.
For DHL Express UK and Ireland’s lead in-house lawyer, it is this variety that adds additional spice to her job.
“I love the fact that there’s never a dull moment in this business,” head of legal Rachael Hambrook. “There’s always something new.”
Hambrook has had her hands full ever since she started with the company 18 month ago. She has taken on the task of making sure the business stays legally compliant so that packages containing items ranging from music memorabilia to sportswear get delivered on time and unscathed.
In the UK the legal team is primarily split into three business-facing teams: DHL Express, DHL Supply Chain and DHL Global Forwarding and Freight.
ambrook is responsible for the ‘Express’ arm of the business. Since taking over the role she has been busy integrating the legal team into every aspect of the company.
“When I joined the company I realised that the relationship between the legal team and the rest of the business was very distant, and I’ve spent time building relationships and engaging our team in the business,” she says.
After learning that there were gaps in the legal team’s knowledge about what went on at what Hambrook calls “the sharp end of the business”, she decided that team members should experience first-hand how things worked and so introduced mini work experience placements.
“Now the team regularly spends time at our service centres and hubs and with customer services, the sales team and the couriers, because it was absolutely essential we had a good understanding of the work our business does,” she explains. “We’ve received really good feedback from staff, who are impressed that the lawyers from head office are taking an interest in what’s happening.”
Following on from this, Hambrook makes sure she attends all board meetings. She also ensures the rest of the legal team maintains a presence at all monthly departmental senior management meetings, including the risk forum and sustainability board.
“We’ve now got to the stage where the legal team’s consulted on almost all business issues and our opinion is valued. This allows us to not only add value as a team, but to also help shape policy and the direction of the business,” says Hambrook.
Legal training is another aspect that Hambrook takes very seriously. She makes sure employees throughout the company are legally briefed on matters such as data protection, employment, marketing and standard terms and conditions of carriage.
“We work closely with the sales teams to refresh their knowledge on certain legal matters, such as the Tupe [Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment)] Regulations, so they can ensure this is taken into consideration when pricing and negotiating the contract,” she says.
Hambrook’s legal team is engaged in a broad range of contentious and non-contentious work. She claims it endeavors to be a “one-stop shop” for all legal issues for DHL Express.
But she admits the team cannot do everything. Externally outsourced work is primarily sought when complex or niche advice is needed, particularly in the areas of litigation, property, antitrust, competition or public procurement. But one issue the team is faced with on a daily basis is discussions with the customer service department about the extent of risk that carriers of parcels will assume and the extent of that liability within the contract.
“We have an excellent customer claims team who are successful in resolving most of the claims,” she says. “These arise mainly because, in delivering hundreds of thousands of parcels each night, we’re only human and do occasionally lose things and we do sometimes damage things.”
Hendrix’s guitar, let’s hope, will make it unscathed.
Organisation: DHL Express UK and Ireland
Legal counsel: Rachael Hambrook
Title: Vice-president, head of legal, DHL Express UK and Ireland
Reporting to: Senior vice-president and UK head of legal Chris Bryans and UK CEO Ken McCall
Turnover (2008): £16.5bn (for DHL Express Europe, which includes UK)
Total number of employees: 10,000 (UK and Ireland)
Total legal capability: Five
Main external law firms: Beachcrofts, Clyde & Co, DWF, Eversheds, Holman Fenwick Willan
Total legal spend: £150,000
Rachael Hambrook’s CV
1977-80: BA, University of Kent
1980-81: College of Law, Guildford
1983-88: Assistant solicitor, Glanvilles Wells & Way, Portsmouth
1988-2000: Senior legal counsel, Safeway
2000-07: General counsel, Musgrave UK
2007-present: Head of legal, DHL Express UK and Ireland