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21 February 2014
"Five full-time solicitors and all Oxbridge graduates," says Jonathan Anelay, proudly describing his in-house team. Anelay is Oxford University's director of legal services. Articled at Ashurst Morris Crisp, Anelay later built up a practice at Morrell Peel & Gamlen, where he was senior partner, working for university clients in technology transfer matters. In 1997, the firm merged with Manches and Anelay approached his then client Oxford University. It was a timely meeting: the university needed in-house legal capability and Anelay wanted a job.
Shortly after taking up his new post, Anelay was joined by Peter Webber, who now handles the university's property work. The pair knew each other from their time together at Morrell Peel, where Webber had been head of property before a short stint at Boodle Hatfield, where he spent his time establishing its property department.
Working at the university as assistant registrar before Anelay arrived was Frances Barnwell, who is now his deputy director. She was a qualified solicitor and handled some legal work, but when Anelay joined she took on a more active role. She renewed her practice certificate and now deals with student and disciplinary matters, education and governance law and copyright issues.
Carolyn McKee looks after the research service offices, which deal primarily with research grants. Before that she was at Bevan Ashford, but explains that she "liked the idea of working for the university and a charitable institution". The final member of the team is Christine Beuermann, who joined from Slaughter and May and now works for Isis Innovation, Oxford University's technology transfer subsidiary.
According to Anelay, the university outsources all of its litigation and nearly all of its employment work. It is now reviewing the status of construction work, which it currently deals with externally, but Anelay says: "Our property lawyer has construction expertise and could do a fair bit by farming out the rest, as we have a lot of building work."
The primary firms instructed by the department are Ashurst Morris Crisp, Eversheds, Manches and Morgan Cole.
The team has just finished working on a £20m joint venture between the university and Beeson Gregory Group, a financial services provider. The deal will contribute the final segment of funding for the chemistry department's new £60m research building. In return for providing the capital, Beeson Gregory will receive 50 per cent of the university's stake of equity in spin-out companies from the chemistry department over a 15-year period. A spokesman for Oxford University says that the project "is believed to be the first such arrangement entered into by a UK university".
Anelay says: "Spin-outs are freestanding commercial bodies. They're based on university technology and are spun out from the university with venture capital. The shareholders are venture capitalists, business angels and the university itself.
"Researchers benefit directly from research technology transfer and a number of campus millionaires have been created. They're academics who made large sums of money out of spin-outs." Oxford University's angels provide a vehicle for private individuals and companies to register interests for investing in spin-out companies.
Other projects that the department is involved in include an alliance between Oxford, Princeton, Stanford and Yale Universities to offer online distance-learning courses in the arts and sciences. Each university has contributed $3m (£2m) in start-up fees.
The Isis College Fund is also being set up by the legal department. "Under it," explains Anelay, "the university and 27 of its colleges have contributed £11m for second and subsequent round finance for the university spin-outs." The fund will be managed by independent capital venture company Quester, and is closed to investment by the university and its colleges. The fund was sponsored by asset management company Robert Fleming & Co, and will invest initially in unquoted companies.
For now, Anelay does not have plans to further expand his department, but if he does, non-Oxbridge graduates need not apply. n