David Whibley, general counsel and director of legal services at Xerox, is keen to make one thing clear – his company does not sell photocopiers.
While the name Xerox will always be linked in the public psyche to that vital piece of office equipment, the company has moved on to selling “business solutions not boxes”.
This month, the company consolidated this change in business strategy by announcing it had completed the £578.1m acquisition of Tektronix’s color printing and imaging division, a deal that was handled by Xerox’s UK in-house team of four and lawyers from Morgan Cole.
After reviewing the legal needs of the merged companies, Xerox decided it could deal with its legal needs without taking on more lawyers.
Therefore Tektronix’s in-house counsel will stay within the part of the business that was not bought by Xerox.
The ease with which the company’s in-house team has integrated its newly purchased company is typical of Whibley’s way of dealing with things.
When choosing external law firms, he employs the usual methods of holding beauty parades and looking at the packages offered on a value for money basis, but he says there is also an element of “suck it and see”.
He says: “I do share the view put about quite a lot at the moment that London firms are pricing themselves out of the market, which is why we use Morgan Cole. It has provided an extremely good service and has offices in the areas where we are based.”
Although Whibley has used Lovells in the past and will continue to do so in the future, he does not intend to outsource work to the UK firm’s newly merged German partner Boesebeck Droste Rechtsanwalte, preferring to choose the right law firm in the right location rather than rely on global firms.
“I don’t understand why people are doing mergers at the big firms. I don’t think that Lovells merging with a German firm is going to make it anymore attractive than it already is,” he says.
As to which law firms Xerox uses on the Continent, Whibley says the choice is left up to the lawyer on the ground.
The company has offices throughout Europe, housing three lawyers in France, two in Germany, two in Italy and one in Ireland, while four work at Uxbridge. Others are based at various Xerox centres.
As Xerox works on the principle of empowerment, each of the company’s legal departments is given responsibility for choosing its own external firms.
So would anything persuade Whibley to use a global firm?
“If the firm was cost-effective and had the right expertise then perhaps. While you might use a big firm in London you wouldn’t necessarily want to use its Madrid office for example, as there might be someone you rate more highly in that market.”
Closer to home, each of the four lawyers in Uxbridge has their own area of expertise.
One lawyer covers employment law, another intellectual property – much in demand given Xerox’s new direction – a third concentrates on property while Whibley himself specialises in competition law.
Each lawyer also has responsibility for a business area, for example one lawyer provides Xerox’s research and development centre in Welwyn with a legal surgery.
Whibley says: “We try to train managers so that they can operate without continuing legal support or worse still get into big problems.”
The company does the majority of its legal work in-house but Whibley cannot quantify exactly how much that is.
“It is impossible to say how much work we out-source but we do as much in-house as possible.
“What we send outside is the work that we do not have the expertise to do in-house, for example we do not do conveyancing or major litigation and we don’t do major acquisitions completely on our own.”
Head of legal and general counsel
|Employees||4000 in the UK|
|Legal function||20-plus lawyers in the UK|
|Head of legal||David Whibley, general counsel and director of legal services|
|Reporting to||Bill Goode, managing director of Xerox Europe, holding company for Xerox|
|Main location for lawyers||Uxbridge|
|Main law firms||Lovells, Morgan Cole, Richards Butler|