Unilever ditches local counsel as part of in-house legal restructure

Unilever has overhauled its internal legal team, scrapping local general counsel in favour of a matrix reporting system for senior in-house lawyers.

The Anglo-Dutch conglomerate is also set to slash its legal bills after re-evaluating the way it works with outside counsel. The changes look set to benefit firms with extensive international networks.

Katrina Burchill, head of trademarks, said: “There will be an impact [on law firms] and there’s a plan for that.

“A lot used to be based on local relationships. The trend for law firms now is to cover regions and go global; people are starting to look into that and see whether there are advantages. We’ll look for efficiencies like any of the big companies.”

The company has created two new legal roles. Regional counsel will cover broad geographic areas such as Asia and Europe, the Middle East and Africa, while category counsel will be responsible for product lines such as skin creams or deodorants.

All counsel will report in to Paul Neely, director of legal affairs at Unilever, and lawyers will be able to have two roles simultaneously.

Burchill, for example, is both head of trademarks and category counsel for Unilever’s skin product range, which includes brands such as Dove and Pond’s.