Hewlett-Packard shrinks UK legal team to cut costs

Hewlett-Packard (HP) has completed an overhaul of its UK legal team after the US management ordered a cost-cutting scheme for the whole company last year.

“We’ve been asked to trim our costs. We’ve been given targets and it’s an opportunity to be creative,” said UK general counsel James Ormrod.

As a result the legal team has shrunk by 22 per cent, from seven lawyers and 20 contract managers in 2003 to six lawyers and 15 contract managers in 2006.

Ormrod said: “It wasn’t a big bang, but more about getting incremental efficiencies.”

HP has built its legal roster up to 10 firms, with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer retaining its role as lead adviser. Other firms include Shoosmiths for employment matters, Lewis Silkin for property and Duane Morris for general commercial work.

Ormrod said the company balanced the variable cost of external advisers against the fixed cost of the in-house team.

Ormrod took up the UK general counsel position at the end of last year, coming back to the UK following an 11-year stint in the US working at Compaq and then HP.

He replaced Gareth John, who left for Transport for London as director of legal and compliance in September last year after nine years at HP.

In June last year HP implemented a global plan to reduce its workforce by 14,500 employees – around 10 per cent of its regular full-time staff – to improve profitability. HP expects annual savings of around $1.9bn (£1bn) by 2007.