The Lawyer Legal Summit: how in-housers will cope with the crunch

The Lawyer Legal Summit: how in-housers will cope with the crunchThis year’s The Lawyer Summit is a timely one, with a heavy focus on the practicalities of dealing with the credit crunch.

From 6 to 8 November 56 senior lawyers from 27 firms and 90 in-house counsel from 84 companies will be discussing problems and thrashing out solutions

in Berlin’s Hotel Adlon Kempinski.

The event is held together by more than 15 breakout sessions, interspersed with time slots in which entrepreneurial partners can line up ‘dates’ with in-house counsel to pitch them ideas, rates and other propositions.

Old Mutual Asset Managers’ Meekal Hashmi is leading a session entitled ‘Blood on the carpet’, which will examine the employment law issues that arise “when the mighty fall”. The session is intended as a guide for in-house counsel tasked with removing directors.

“It will be a technical talk about how you can get rid of senior or board-level directors,” said Hashmi. “There’s an employment law pro­cess, but there are bigger amounts of money at stake with directors, so the risks are bigger.”
Hashmi noted that at many large companies the process can be made ­simpler.

“In practice, if you were a chief finance officer at a big plc, you’d probably just call them into the office and march them out of the building and worry about it later,” he said.

Usually in such cases, a compromise agreement would be signed that would close off any claims for unfair dismissal. But Hashmi warned that companies still need to be aware of the proper process.

Stephenson Harwood employment partner Anne Pritam is co-presenting the seminar with Hashmi, and acknowledged that there are no easy fixes.

“We’ll be dealing with the legal implications of senior departures and boardroom dismissals,” she said. “In some ways this is as ­important as the strategic problems that are encountered – not least because these things tend to happen incredibly quickly.”

Pritam said, given the current economic climate, now is a good time to be examining these issues.

Some other session highlights

• Regulators behaving badly – what can you do about it?
• Corporate social responsibility – is community involvement simply a consequence of ‘fat cat’ guilt?
• Internal branding of your in-house team
• The evolution of the bar
• Value and alternatives to hourly billing
• Why the challenges of cross-border management do not keep me awake at night.

“It’s certainly pretty ­topical,” she said. “The ­performance of boards is certainly under a stronger spotlight than it has been in the past, and in the ­current climate is going to become more of a concern to in-house counsel.”

Other sessions with a topical slant include that being led by Navigant Consulting’s managing director Andrew Durant ;and ;associate ­director Andrew Webster, who will be examining internal fraud and looking into how best to prevent an “increasing business risk”.

They will discuss how to spot fraud warning signs, how to go about designing a fraud-prevention strategy and how to deal with fraud once it has struck.
Richard Shoylekov, general counsel and company secretary at Wolseley, will be presenting a seminar on the skeletons in companies’ closets after the credit crunch. Mishcon de Reya litigation partners Kathryn Garbett ;and ;Rowena ­Herdman-Smith will be co-presenting with him.

“It’s been a funny old credit crunch,” said Herdman-Smith. “It took just over a full year for us all to really start noticing it, for it to really start pinching ­businesses. It’s all still to happen and we’re trying to get everyone positioned for what’s going to happen – for what might hit the sector.”

The seminar will offer practical advice on potential liabilities, fraud and the internal management of such issues.