European in-housers take centre stage

More than 50 delegates, including senior in-house lawyers from companies as diverse as Microsoft and Total, descended on Berlin late last month to attend The Lawyer’s inaugural European Legal Forum.

The two-day event was an opportunity for in-house lawyers across European jurisdictions to network and to share knowledge and expertise, through both informal meetings and lectures delivered by more than 20 lawyers.

Delegate Chip Nazmi, senior international attorney at Kimberly-Clark Europe, said the forum struck “a balance between the quality of the sessions and networking opportunities”.

He said that “getting to know and understand the roles of other European in-house lawyers in various industries and those in private practice” was particularly informative.

Eberhard Uhlmann, general counsel of the European Investment Bank (EIB), the EU’s funding arm, started proceedings by giving the keynote speech.

Uhlmann outlined the objectives of the EIB and how it plans to invest in research and development and human capital. He continued that these would further the aims set out in the 2000 Lisbon Agenda to make the EU the most competitive and knowledge-based economy in the world over the next 10 years.

In all, the forum held nine sessions on specialist topics.

Highlights included a talk on establishing effective cross-border legal functions, given by Boeing’s international counsel Amy Tu and Eversheds partner Denise Jagger. The two previously worked together at Wal-Mart.

Tu and Jagger spoke on differing transatlantic approaches to in-house legal structures, for example whether in-house lawyers should report to a business unit or directly to the general counsel in the headquarters. They also discussed the sometimes amusing cultural differences between US and European workplaces.

Vinge corporate partners Johan Göthberg and Johan Karlsson and Nordic energy company Fortum’s general counsel Harri Pynnä hosted a lecture on cross-border M&A.

Göthberg highlighted the trend of M&A insurance, explaining that it was an effect of the competition for attractive targets, galvanised by private equity’s increasing involvement in M&A. His advice for those interested in such insurance was to be as prepared as possible.

Similar advice was given by his colleague Karlsson in relation to preparing for merger control. Karlsson stressed the importance for merging parties to be active in preparing material for the EU’s Competition Commission before notifying them officially of a merger.

Other sessions included Blackstone Chambers’ Tom de la Mare and Ofgem markets legal director Duncan Sinclair’s guide to the private enforcement of EU competition law and ensuing issues from a UK perspective.

IP and patent protection within single and multiple jurisdictions was covered by Simmons & Simmons partner Severin de Wit and Novartis head of corporate IP Mats Pårup.

Meanwhile, the secretary general of Belgian electricity grid operator Elia, Pierre Bernard, explained how the company was able to comply with varying, and sometimes conflicting, corporate governance rules in Belgium.

A gala dinner on the Thursday evening (28 September) offered a chance to network, while Ellis Watson, the former managing director of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? distributors Celador offered some light entertainment.

Despite the evening’s festivities, the following morning’s first session on data protection was popular. De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek partner Lokke Moerel spoke with Royal Philips’ chief privacy officer Jeroen Terstegge.

Moerel highlighted the increasing use of binding corporate rules (BCRs) in data protection for European companies. Terstegge explained how he had implemented BCRs in a company as complex as Royal Philips and touched on the challenges he had faced. Compliance was also the theme of a session given by Bayer’s head of law and patents Andreas Juhnke, with Luther’s managing partner Stefan Kraus and corporate partner Jörg Rodewald. All three touched on discrimination legislation and how it is applied in both Germany and the EU.

Pinsent Masons partners Jay Birch and Lisa Patmore also gave an in-depth guide to restructuring a company across borders.