Ofcom, the new super-regulator for the media and telecommunications industries, has stunned the legal profession by announcing a new structure, with just five jobs reserved for the central legal function.
The general counsel’s office, which will be responsible for all litigation, will have just five positions out of a total 880 staff. Currently, Oftel’s legal team alone is nine-strong out of a total 220 staff. In total, the existing five regulators employ around 1,100 people.
“Oftel got the fright of its life in the High Court [on termination charges] and should have learnt a lesson that they should give more priority to legal,” said one telecoms partner.
The general counsel will report to chairman David Currie and chief executive Stephen Carter and will sit in the commercial department, which will also house the secretariat, headed by
director Kate Stross.
Stross said: “It’s not the only place where we’ll have lawyers in the organisation and that [five staff] is what we felt we needed.”
She added that the five staff will probably be drawn from the existing regulators, who are facing a period of great uncertainty as they apply for positions at Ofcom.
The majority of the other lawyers will sit in the competition and markets group, which is subdivided into strategic resources and competition policy and compliance. The latter team will be headed by a senior lawyer, a senior economist and a senior figure in charge of regulatory finance.
“I think it will be an error of judgement,” commented another telecoms partner. “There’s going to be a lot more litigation, as this is no longer just an administrative body.”