Microsoft shakes up in-house lawyers as EC competition case gathers speed

Microsoft is decentralising its European legal function and recruiting senior lawyers to head up important individual jurisdictions.

The legal reshuffle coincides with Microsoft’s fresh attack on the antitrust case built against it by the European Commission.

The software group has appointed new directors of law and corporate affairs in France and Germany and is hunting for the right person to fill the role in the UK.

Dorothee Belz, the former general counsel of Kirsch Media, has joined Microsoft in Germany and Thaima Samman has quit as director of corporate affairs at tobacco giant Phillip Morris to become director of law and corporate affairs in France.

A senior source in the Microsoft legal department told The Lawyer: “We need to expand resources at a local level, investing in bigger local teams. We want to have stronger expertise in-house and we want the law and corporate affairs department to be closer to the business.”

Microsoft Ltd is the UK subsidiary of the US software giant. Until recently, Yvonne McLean led its four-person legal department but left for personal reasons. The new appointee will become a full member of the management team of the UK subsidiary, reporting in to the Europe, Middle East and Africa legal team, which is headquartered in Paris, as well as to the local country manager.

Sullivan & Cromwell partners Stuart Meiklejohn and Steven Holley are leading the team of outside counsel working with Microsoft’s in-house team on the case. Linklaters partner Bill Allan, name partner at Belgian firm Van Bael & Bellis, Jean-François Bellis, and Covington & Burling Brussels managing partner David Harfst are also involved.