Giles Millerchip is yet to qualify as a fully fledged lawyer, but that has not prevented him from taking the top legal spot at designer outlet village group McArthurGlen. By Corinne McPartland
Working out the legal implications surrounding the trademark and transportation of a 13m-long life-size dinosaur for one of McArthurGlen’s designer outlet villages is just one of the weird and wonderful tasks that the company’s general counsel, Giles Millerchip, has had since joining in 2000.
Working as head of legal at McArthurGlen, a company that develops, owns and manages designer outlets across Europe, Millerchip says he loves the fact that no working day is ever the same.
“Being an in-house lawyer you have to able to turn your hand to pretty much anything,” he explains. “In a sense, that makes you a jack of all trades. But our outlets are based right across Europe, so you do have to recognise when something is out of your jurisdiction.”
But perhaps the most surprising thing about Millerchip is that although he heads up McArthurGlen’s legal function, he is not yet a qualified lawyer. He is taking part in the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) work-based learning pilot and should qualify in 2010.
In September 2008 the SRA unveiled long-awaited plans regarding its work-based learning pilot, which enables paralegals to train as solicitors while working in their current roles. They take responsibility for their own training and development and are assessed externally by Nottingham Law School.
“I joined McArthurGlen as a paralegal and worked in a number of positions until I became general counsel for the company,” recalls Millerchip. “It’s an exciting business to be a part of because it’s very creative and has the ethos that it really doesn’t matter what role you fill. If you have any input that actually takes the business forward, then people will be keen to listen to you.”
He says this forward-thinking attitude is the very reason he is able to head a team of three, which includes a qualified lawyer as well as a company secretary, while not being qualified himself.
“I think, particularly in the legal world, people look for reasons why things can’t happen, but this company is different because it looks for ways to make it happen rather than reasons why it can’t,” Millerchip adds.
And nothing is a more telling example of McArthurGlen’s forward-thinking attitude than its continued expansion despite the recession. Since opening its first outlet centre in Cheshire Oaks in 1995, the company has 18 designer outlet villages, including the latest Salzburg Designer Outlet, which opened last month.
And it seems this attitude is paying off. Despite the drop in UK retail sales, sales at McArthurGlen’s seven UK centres are up by 5.6 per cent, compared with the same period last year.
“The economic climate has encouraged people to make their money go a lot further, but instead of sacrificing quality for price, UK shoppers want both and are opting for out-of-town designer outlets to pick up top brand names at a discount,” says Millerchip.
Millerchip spends a great deal of his time updating and creating leases for the different brands that are constantly moving in and out of the outlet villages.
“We had 24 new brands move into our UK centres over the last financial year 2008-09,” he says. “Because the rents are partly based on turnover, it’s all about getting the right brands in. Fashion is constantly changing, so nothing stays static.”
And Millerchip recognises that a willingness to provide assistance to every single member of the team at every level is a must for any good general counsel.
”Half the trick of being an in-house lawyer is that, while you may think some legal problems may be very unsubstantial, you’ve got to remember they’re probably very important to some people,” he says. “You have to be able to deliver the same service to them as you might do to a member of the board.”
Name: Giles Millerchip
Organisation: McArthurGlen Group
Industry: Developer, owner and manager of designer outlet villages
Position: General counsel
Reporting to: Finance director Richard Jones
Company turnover: €2bn (£1.76bn) in retail sales
Total number of employees: 300
Total legal capability at head office: Three
Main external law firms: Arnold & Porter, Ashurst, Berwin Leighton Paisner, McGrigors, Nabarro
Total legal spend: £1.5m
Giles Millerchip’s CV
1996: Architecture, BA Hons, University of Manchester
1997: CPE, College of Law, Chester
1998: LPC, College of Law, Chester
1998-99: Assistant, Chester City Council
1999-2000: Paralegal, Allen & Overy
2000-01: Assistant, McArthurGlen Group
2001-present: Legal manager, McArthurGlen Group