Leader

No one was actually seen singing the Freddie
Mercury/Montserrat Caballe epic Barcelona at last week’s The Lawyer European Legal Summit, but it wouldn’t have been a surprise if there had been a few belting it out.
The two-day event was a huge …


No one was actually seen singing the Freddie Mercury/ Montserrat Caballe epic Barcelona at last week’s The Lawyer European Legal Summit, but it wouldn’t have been a surprise if there had been a few belting it out.

The two-day event was a huge success. More than 100 in-house counsel descended on the Hotel Arts, a five-star home with a weird, metal, fish-like thing outside… Well, that’s what you get in the city of Gaudi.

From the off, the delegates – a 2:1 mixture of general counsel and private practice lawyers – appeared on a mission to mingle. From Thursday night’s welcome drinks to the close of play on Saturday (when it eventually came in the small, small hours), the event was a networker’s dream.

Wedged between the schmoozing was the equally serious business of tackling the most pressing issues facing in-house counsel. No prizes for guessing that costs featured highly in many of the presentations and one-to-one break-out sessions between private practitioners and in-housers.

A session on risk management was played out against the backdrop of the hardening insurance market and skyrocketing premiums. Another on making the most of current technology during a major litigation, which highlighted the expected benefits of technology such as speedy document retrieval, also revealed cost savings of up to 40 per cent that could be achieved by using a specialist litigation support company. The private practice lawyers were too polite to writhe in their seats at the thought of all that lovely paralegal-driven revenue slipping away down the wires.

Meanwhile, in the delightfully-titled ‘Ten things you never knew you could do with your external lawyers’, fee-levels featured prominently. The common theme was that in-house counsel wanted a breakdown of charges on completion. That way, paying for any duplication of work by different lawyers on a deal could be queried. (For a full roundup on the summit, see Barcelona or Bust.)

The bash was also productive in other, even more tangible ways. On the first day of the conference, one private practice partner wondered if their mere presence in Barcelona would generate work. Think again: at the latest count a dozen of the firms that made the trip to Spain had won new work. In-house lawyers are more receptive than private practice seems to think. The personal touch still matters.