In-house

David Middleton on the month in-house:
Amazon, Cable & Wireless and lastminute.com take on new legal stars
T-Mobile and ABN Amro cut legal budgets
CRE and Granada appoint legal counsel

Changing of the high-tech guard

It has been a month of high-profile moves at the top of the tree, with the technology sector leading the way. A new appointment was made at Amazon.co.uk, while Cable & Wireless (C&W) and lastminute.com saw a changing of the guard. Most recently, eBay’s head of UK legal has moved to a subsidiary for a global role.

Plenty of murmuring has been heard regarding the move of C&W former general counsel Andrew Garard. Initial reaction from the in-house industry at his move was one of incredulity. “What the hell is he thinking?” was one industry insider’s response. “You don’t see guys leave jobs like that [often], heading up legal departments of FTSE100 companies where you’re reporting to the board.”

C&W is keeping very quiet, with neither Garard or new general counsel Nick Cooper returning The Lawyer’s calls. Cooper, who is, according to all sources, “a very nice bloke”, found himself with the top job after Energis, where he had his previous post as general counsel and company secretary, was acquired by C&W in August 2005 for £780m.

Amazon.co.uk’s new UK legal director David Melville has dived in at the deep end and has been ensconced in meetings as the e-retailer looks to back up its massive recent growth. Amazon looks to be positioning itself as a direct challenger to eBay in the online market niche, with a reported 20 per cent of all the website’s transactions being between consumers.

Melville joined from Wanadoo, which he in turn moved to from Freeserve when the France Telecom-owned subsidiary acquired it. The merry-go-round stops at Wanadoo, though, with the company’s senior lawyers assuming more responsibility for their own departments, which includes a lot of regulatory specialism. They now have final responsibility for the legal function, with Wanadoo’s financial director reporting on their activities to the board.

Lastminute.com has said farewell to David Hickson after he resigned, apparently to go backpacking, following the internet travel company’s takeover by US tech giant Sabre Holdings. Sanjay Lobo, who headed the UK legal function of Sabre’s largest operation Travelocity, has taken over at lastminute.com. He works with a small but expanding two-lawyer team and his first task in the role has been to cut out client-facing work, handing the contentious matters straight over to the customer service department.

Obviously not one to hog the limelight, Lobo came to The Lawyer’s attention when he politely enquired if he could attend our annual Hot 100 party in Hickson’s place, then was at great pains to sing his staff’s praises to The Lawyer.

eBay’s UK legal director Robert Miller has made a name for himself after joining the internet auctioneer in 2001 as the UK operation’s first lawyer. Miller was famously told by his colleagues at BT that he would be back within six months, tail between his legs. Instead, he starts today (6 February) as general counsel for Skype Worldwide, the global internet telephone company which is, ironically, a potential threat to BT.

Skype, which was acquired by eBay for $2.6bn (£1.46bn) in September 2005, gives Miller a more global remit and the company is expected to net more than $200m (£112.5m) in revenue this year. If eBay’s success wiped the smile off the faces of Miller’s former colleagues, they are practically crying now.

T-Mobile slashes legal spend
T-Mobile joined the ranks of telecoms giants making big cuts to their legal budgets as competitiveness in the market continues to drive the move to slash costs. The company has halved its legal spend, and cut the number of external advisers it uses from 15 down to six.

In scenes reminiscent of Motorola’s worldwide heavy-handed approach to legal costs (The Lawyer, 31 October 2005), T-Mobile has also used its weight to lean on technology, media and telecoms practices to secure budget rates.

Linklaters and Reynolds Porter Chamberlain were among the firms to lose out in the cut, while Allen & Overy, Bird & Bird, Eversheds, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Kemp Little, Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham and Winckworth Sherwood all made the grade.

T-Mobile legal director and company secretary James Blendis revealed the cuts to The Lawyer when interviewed for a Client File (The Lawyer, 30 January).

Also looking to cut its legal spend was Dutch investment banking giant ABN Amro, which hired its first in-house employment lawyer. McDermott Will & Emery senior associate Charlotte Davis was awarded the job, giving the firms on the bank’s employment panel plenty of food for thought. That panel comprises Olswang, Simmons & Simmons and SJ Berwin.

Indeed, the entire panel is being reviewed as part of ABN’s wider plan to overhaul its legal roster.

Granada, CRE hire in-house counsel
Appointments in the world of in-house legal counsel this month have come from the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) and Granada International.

The CRE made a hire to the chair of its legal committee, with former general counsel at T-Mobile Julia Chain landing the job. The CRE is responsible for enforcing the Race Relations Act.

Chain has also served a term as managing partner of Garretts and was a consultant at Jomati, the law firm consultancy started by Tony Williams, another ex-managing partner at Garretts. She now runs Kite Consultancy, assisting in-house departments and advising law firms on client care.

Meanwhile, ex-Channel Four International and BBC Worldwide lawyer Alison Lee has been appointed head of business affairs at Granada International, part of the ITV International network. She will oversee sales and licensing deals and negotiations on co-production and output agreements, reporting to director of business affairs Helen Fox-Gladwell.

International roundup Coming up:
Management: 13 Feb
Regional: 20 Feb
The bar: 27 Feb
In-house: 6 March