UK Roundup – In-House

In-house elite gather at Monte Carlo

The who’s who of in-house counsel turned out for The Lawyer’s sixth annual legal summit in Monte Carlo on 9-11 November. The event was packed with some of the industry’s leading figures who attended seminars, workshops and open forums on a number of key current issues.

Every session was well attended, and the smattering of private practice lawyers who also attended were busy networking as much as they could. There was also, of course, a little fun and frivolity in between the hard work, with a gala dinner on the Friday night allowing lawyers a well-deserved chance to hit the dancefloor. Citigroup chief European economist Richard Reid opened proceedings with a speech urging law firms to be outward-looking and to focus on opportunities in emerging markets.

Highlights from the sessions included National Grid group company secretary and general counsel Helen Mahy’s and Lawrence Graham corporate head Christopher Tite’s talk about restructuring large legal departments and how to align them with corporate strategy.

QinetiQ general counsel Lynton Boardman spoke on risk management and mentioned his ongoing panel review, which had more than a few private practice lawyers scribbling furious notes. Boardman was joined by Corus deputy general counsel Eleanor Evans, standing in for legal head Richard Shoylekov, who was kept in London dealing with the company’s takeover offers.

One of the livelier open forum discussions was on the ever-topical ‘Is there an alternative to billable hours?’ – something every lawyer is going to have an opinion on. Joanne Bower, corporate counsel to engineering and pneumatics industrial company IMI, and Shoosmiths partner Gary Assim led the session. Unsurprisingly, the in-house lawyers were against the billable hour and railed against being chased by accounts departments and paying for bizarre inclusions, such as minute-long phonecalls and biscuits provided in meetings, as well as paying for training. But for all the argument, a reliable and practical alternative was unable to be agreed upon by the delegates.

Reflecting the increasing regulatory environment and importance of competition compliance in the current climate, the session, hosted by Microsoft’s Chris Parker and DLA Piper competition partner Mike Pullen, was very popular. Parker raised a few eyebrows when he revealed that the company has dress rehearsals for dawn raids, while Pullen spoke of a City firm that had been subjected to a raid.

But perhaps the most fun session was where in-house counsel were asked to design their own front cover of The Lawyer, a task that they all took to with great gusto. Credit must go to Jimmy Choo general counsel Hannah Merritt, whose team’s design stole the show.

The anecdotal feedback was that the event was a resounding success for all concerned, and already we are looking forward to the 2007 session, expected to be held in Rome.

In-house employment nous saves cash

One of the themes to come out of the Monte Carlo conference was the increasing trend of in-house departments to bring their employment work in-house. While not every department is doing it, for those where it makes sense the savings are ripe.

Christian Salvesen head of legal Edward Peppiatt, profiled in today’s issue (see page 20), estimates a cost saving of more than £100,000 annually through the hire of an in-house employment lawyer.

Several in-house counsel at The Lawyer’s legal summit reported similar actions in recent times, while others reported the use of external employment consultants to head off legal issues.

Panel review results are in

A spate of panel reviews were finalised in the past month, with good news for many City and regional firms as the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Axa and the Co-operative Group and Co-operative Financial Services all finalised their roster of legal advisers.

Befitting a client of RBS’s stature, roles were found for a sizeable number of firms, with the bulk of the existing panel, including the magic circle firms, reappointed.

The panel has been broken down into a number of sub-categories. Firms reappointed are understood to include Addleshaw Goddard, Allen & Overy, Ashurst, Berwin Leighton Paisner, Clifford Chance, Denton Wilde Sapte, DLA Piper, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith, Linklaters and Norton Rose. All won places on the review in 2003 and have been retained.

Bircham Dyson Bell, CMS Cameron McKenna, Eversheds, SJ Berwin and Taylor Wessing are also believed to be among the firms that have pitched successfully, while US firm Jones Day snared a spot on the roster. The extensive review was undertaken by the bank’s deputy general counsel Chris Campbell.

Meanwhile, global insurance giant Axa unveiled a 14-member panel after its first formal review. National heavyweight Eversheds was a surprise inclusion on the panel, alongside City insurance boutique Kendall Freeman. US firms Debevoise & Plimpton, insurance sector specialist LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae and Sullivan & Cromwell were also included.

But it was the UK firms that made up the bulk of the panel, while Gide Loyrette Nouel was the only firm from Continental Europe appointed by the Paris-headquartered company. From the UK, Clifford Chance, Clyde & Co, Holman Fenwick & Willan, Linklaters, Lovells, Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw, Norton Rose and Simmons & Simmons all secured places.

Global general counsel George Stansfield ran the review. UK general counsel Ed Davies says that, while the panel firms would be the first choice, it is not exclusive and the regional general counsels will still have discretion to use local firms for jurisdiction-specific items.

DLA Piper was left off the first joint panel by the Co-operative Group and Co-operative Financial Services. The firm had advised on property, commercial and litigation matters in the past, but was dropped after the debacle of the dispute with ICL, which eventually led to the overhaul of the Technology and Construction Court.

Addleshaws, Eversheds, Hammonds, Herbert Smith and Watson Burton all won the places on the panel.