UK Roundup: In-house

David Middleton on the month in-house

Barclays demands diversity statistics
Law firms across the country are becoming self-styled diversity experts after The Lawyer exclusively revealed (13 February) that Barclays is to start asking for diversity statistics from firms that want to call it a client.

The move follows on from Bridget Prentice MP’s request in November 2005 to the top 100 UK law firms and top 30 barristers’ chambers for statistics relating to the demographic make-up of their lawyers by the end of this month.

Barclays general counsel Mark Harding has started the ball rolling for in-house departments, following in the footsteps of what some US companies have made into an art form.

Already the seven key advisers to Barclays (Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters, Lovells and Simmons & Simmons) have had to provide the statistics, and the demand is going to be extended to every firm on the bank’s 10 specialist panels.

Harding is also the chair of the General Counsel 100 Group, a committee of legal heads from FTSE100 companies. He has vowed to put the issue at the top of the agenda for every in-house department. And it’s not just law firms Harding is targeting. He wants all in-house departments to reflect the ethnic and gender diversity of society, but admitted that would be at least a five-year project.

Indeed, when he first made mention of his bold plans at an Addleshaw Goddard seminar, there was an instant reaction in the crowd from lawyers on both sides of the commercial divide.

Promotion for legal head at Sainsbury’s
One of the worst kept secrets in the in-house retail sector finally came out in February when Sainsbury’s officially appointed Nick Grant as its general counsel, as first revealed by The Lawyer (27 February).

Officially the head of legal services, Grant was David Thurston’s deputy and has been in-house at Sainsbury’s for more than seven years.

In a prepared statement, Grant said: “I am thrilled to take up this position and to have the chance to lead a great team of lawyers as they play their part in bringing success back to Sainsbury’s.”

Thurston had been a mainstay at Sainsbury’s, spendng the last 11 of his 18 years at the supermarket giant as head of legal. He retired to pursue other interests.

Grant’s appointment has been welcomed by the company’s private practice lawyers, including Linklaters, which remains the chief corporate adviser to the supermarket.

However, The Lawyer understands Grant had to survive a lengthy and far-reaching search for a replacement in a move that should keep the shareholders happy that the best man got the job.

Major reshuffle for BT’s legal team
BT has undergone a shake-up of its in-house legal function, brought on by the creation of its Openreach division. The new division meant that the telco had to increase the number of in-house specialist competition lawyers. Until the vacancies are filled, BT general counsel Anne Fletcher has implemented the reshuffle to ensure the Openreach division, which became live in January, had adequate coverage.

Openreach installs and maintains telecoms services on behalf of the UK’s phone companies and internet service providers. Its creation was part of a regulatory deal with telecoms regulator Ofcom following last year’s strategic review of the UK’s telecoms sector.

As part of that deal, Openreach has stated that it is “committed to ensuring all communications providers have transparent and equivalent access to the local BT network”.

Also in the telecoms sector, Cable & Wireless’s (C&W) recently appointed new general counsel Nick Cooper is in for difficult times ahead. Last week the company’s UK chairman John Pluthero announced that the company will halve its workforce and slash its customer base from 30,000 to just 3,000.

As first revealed by The Lawyer (18 January), Cooper scored the top legal job at C&W from Energis after C&W acquired Energis for £780m in August. The departure of former general counsel Andrew Garard came as a shock and he is yet to resurface in a new position. Heads roll at Liberata
The Lawyer understands that Liberata has had a cleanout of its in-house legal team, with general counsel and company secretary John Richardson having already left the company.

It is understood that up to five others from the in-house team are hunting for new jobs. A Liberata spokesperson was unavailable for comment.

QinetiQ legal chief enjoys IPO windfall
QinetiQ general counsel and company secretary Lynton Boardman made many of his peers rather envious of his position last month, when the former Ministry of Defence research agency listed. The Lawyer was able to reveal (6 February) that Boardman sold 150,870 shares when conventional trading began on 10 February, netting him an immediate windfall of £300,000.

His remaining 854,930 shares had hit a value of more than £1.8m by the end of the day. Very tidy work for Boardman, who joined QinetiQ in 2002 from Syngenta, where he was the Europe, Middle East and Africa head of legal.

InBev, Richmond to cut panel budgets
Finally, to the world of panel reviews. InBev, the world’s largest beer company, has started its first global panel review under general counsel Sabine Chalmers. The company spent E10m (£6.8m) on firms in Western Europe last year but plans to slash that amount.

The London Borough of Richmond upon Thames wants to formalise its ad hoc panel, cutting the number it has relationships with. The borough has an annual legal spend of around £1.5m
The Crown Estate has appointed West London property boutique Pemberton Greenish as its sole legal advisor for its residential property portfolio. It is the second appointment as part of the estate’s review of legal services across its urban estate.