Lockton counsel Charlotte Taggart’s talents have been put to full use in converting the insurance broker into an LLP.
These days a private practice lawyer at a major firm who has not been through an LLP conversion is a rarity. Most firms converted years ago and the procedure, while
not perhaps entirely painless, should at least be relatively familiar.
For Charlotte Taggart, the engaging general counsel at Lockton Companies, the conversion of her UK business from a limited company to an LLP was genuinely trailblazing (fewer than 0.5 per cent of insurance brokers are structured as LLPs).
But Taggart is not the kind of person likely to be fazed by having to take pioneering decisions that others might find difficult or unusual. In conversation with The Lawyer it quickly becomes apparent that, if she has a mantra, it is likely to be ’go for it’.
Maybe she inherited this from her father. Taggart Snr is a former Lockton broker whose reaction, when Taggart told him she was considering joining the company as general counsel, was indeed “Go for it”.
“I asked him how he felt about me being general counsel and that was his reaction,” Taggart recounts, pointing out that when she was first headhunted for the role she had not known it was for Lockton, and she cleared any question of a potential conflict with the chairman before accepting. “My feeling was that if my dad felt comfortable recommending this place, it was pretty unlikely to be a bad choice.”
It is obvious that it turned out well. Taggart clearly relishes her job at Lockton and in particular is enthusiastic about the opportunity she had to lead the legal team’s efforts on the conversion to LLP status last year.
Lockton is the world’s largest privately owned independent insurance broker and the eighth-biggest broker in the world, with a global revenue exceeding $800m (£493m).
The LLP project, which has led to Taggart being nominated for In-house Lawyer of the Year for The Lawyer Awards 2011, was highly complicated, involving a restructuring of Lockton’s UK regulated entity.
The LLP conversion, which Lockton initiated to better attract and retain top talent, had significant implications for how the business employed and incentivised its staff, structured its governance systems and the way the company is taxed.
“We were aligning ourselves with our US model, which is partner-led,” explains Taggart.
For Taggart it meant almost a year’s intensive work leading the project. It required the transfer of all of the regulated business’s assets, clients and arrangements into a new legal entity while the day-to-day trading activities of Lockton continued. It also required communication with, and buy-in from, all employees and management.
As part of her role Taggart was responsible for helping 65 partners understand the consequences of the transformation for them while creating a new operational framework for the partnership.
The LLP project was handled primarily in-house, with external tax and legal input on the conversion coming from Pricewaterhouse-Coopers. Whenever Taggart turns to outside law firms she prefers to use a hand-picked bunch of longstanding advisers.
“I don’t use panels,” she reveals. “It’s lawyers, not firms. You need to pick your lawyers depending on their style, and it’s important that you get on with each other.”
Lockton uses a fairly lengthy list of lawyers, including Cath Thorpe at Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, Paul Newdick at Clyde & Co, Bill Rodgers at Simmons & Simmons, Simon Brooks at Eversheds and Ed Foss at CMS Cameron McKenna.
“We also use Ashfords, who are great value, and Andrew Blower and Elizabeth Robertson at Addleshaw Goddard, both for financial crime law matters,” adds Taggart.
While Lockton’s in-house legal team is small, comprising just three individuals including Taggart, its general counsel says it was integral to getting the LLP job done. Taggart’s team consists of company secretary Sarah Jeffs and Trupti Michael, a lawyer with three years’ PQE.
Jeffs underlined her capabilities when she led the conversion of Lockton’s office in Dubai from a branch to a full subsidiary.
“And she did it on her own,” adds Taggart.
Considering that while undertaking the LLP conversion project Taggart also redesigned the compliance and risk function, sold Lockton’s UK insolvency business and oversaw the acquisition of interests in Korea and Australia, not to mention a host of other matters, plus fitting in some time to see her children, it is clear that her inclusion on the awards shortlist
is well merited.
Name: Charlotte Taggart
Organisation: Lockton Companies
Industry: Insurance broking
Position: General counsel
Reporting to: CEO Julian James
Turnover: £130m (non-US)
Legal spend: £1m
Legal capability: Three
Main external firms: Addleshaw Goddard, Ashfords, Clyde & Co, CMS Cameron McKenna, Eversheds, Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, Simmons & Simmons