Cisco Systems

The UK division of information technology giant Cisco is believed to be the biggest operation outside its US headquarters.

It would, therefore, be expected that a business which claims its market capitalisation places it third only to Microsoft and Intel in the world’s top-ranking companies, would use a raft of the most expensive big-hitting law firms as its legal advisers.

However, the UK operation almost exclusively uses only one firm, Baker & McKenzie, with which it has had a strong relationship for a number of years.

Cisco’s links to the firm are so strong that in March this year the company recruited Graham Allan, a partner and IT specialist from Baker & McKenzie, to become managing attorney for its European, Middle East and African (EMEA) operations from the UK.

Allan says: “It is no secret that we have a strong relationship with Baker & McKenzie in London and we use them extensively elsewhere for key areas of outsourced work.”

But he adds: “In the UK we use other firms for other things as well, but that tends to be on an ad hoc basis. We don’t have a panel we go to.”

Allan says that Baker & McKenzie primarily looks after all work which is not related directly to the company’s core area of technology, for example human resources, corporate and property work.

“The business is split into three areas. One is the contracts with what we call our partners who are systems integrators and distributors. Then there are the agreements with our customers which can be quite intense in negotiating direct with the end-users.

“And there is also what I call the supplier and marketing services.

“We retain work unless there is a good reason not to. That is deliberately our focus, so everything that is not centred around that we tend to put out.”

Allan adds: “We are specialist lawyers, my background is in technology law.

“Obviously I do some general counsel work but our aim has never been to engage specialist people to do outsource work.”

Although the UK office operates on an autonomous basis, corporate compliance work is taken care of from Cisco’s head office in San Jose in conjunction with Baker & McKenzie’s US office.

“The most efficient way of doing things is to have one firm that can centrally manage that for us,” says Allan.

“Centrally billing and knowing all the issues is a tremendous help. Otherwise it becomes so expensive.

“It is mind-bogglingly bitty work and it can be very frustrating to make sure that you get all of the formalities complied with in different countries,” he adds.

Allan also heads up a number of other in-house lawyers throughout the EMEA region who use either Baker & McKenzie’s international offices or local firms in each country as needed.

“If, for example, we have got a big deal in somewhere like Portugal, the lawyers who look after EMEA South would look after that with external lawyers to the extent necessary,” he says.

Allan says lawyers in the EMEA region report to him but he says: “It is a flat reporting structure.

“I would expect them to escalate to me when they felt they had an issue.

“I do monitor them within reason but I trust my lawyers.”

Closer to home, Allan works with five lawyers in the UK office.

However, Allan says he is looking to increase that number to 10 by Christmas.

“It was always my intention. That is not a lot of growth, I guess, but there is a philosophy of using technology where ever possible to do tasks that might otherwise be done by human beings. In other words we will not grow the legal group as quickly as the business is growing.”

Graham Allen
Head of legal
Cisco systems

Organisation Cisco systems
Sector IT
NASDAQ ranking 3
Market capitalistion $190bn
Employees 14,500
Legal function Six lawyers
Head of legal Graham Allen
Reporting to Mark Chandler, associate general counsel of worldwide affairs
Main location for lawyers Stockley Park, Uxbridge
Main law firm Baker & McKenzie