2011 Round-up – In-house interviews: Talking heads

We interviewed some of the very best legal chiefs practising in a variety of industries, from media to finance to the police force

Emmanuel Maurice
Emmanuel Maurice

In a year characterised by increasing cost pressures, in-house lawyers have never been busier. Scott Dresser, general counsel at Virgin Media, knew this all too well when he embarked on his quest to establish the company’s first formal panel of external legal advisers (21 November).

After a rigorous panel process, Dresser lined up a range of firms to cope with the business’s broad and ever-changing needs.

This was something that was also on the mind of then WorldPay ­general counsel Elizabeth Shurdom, who worked to establish the ­card-payment processor’s first legal panel after spinning out of RBS.

“A big challenge for me has been to match the business stride for stride,” admitted Shurdom, who has since left the company (16 May).

Building work

She could have taken some advice from Nationwide Building Society ­general counsel Liz Kelly, who was tasked with creating the building society’s first formal legal panel in 2010.

In an interview with The Lawyer on 2 May, Kelly, 2011’s In-house Lawyer of the Year, said that it was vital to blend legal expertise with business know-how in the right way.
“The big push for me is for [legal team members] to be seen as business advisers with legal hats, not lawyers with business hats,” she said.

Cutting costs and streamlining a legal function effectively is something that Bupa general counsel Paul ­Newton, whose team was shortlisted for In-house Commerce and Industry Team of the Year at The Lawyer Awards 2011, knows all about. The key consideration, according to ­Newton, is how you view your legal advisers.

“We don’t see our law firms as ­simply suppliers – we’re not dealing in paper clips – but as part of our ­talent pool,” he told us in the summer (18 July).

Elsewhere, in-house lawyers have been facing increasingly challenging working environments. In February, The Lawyer profiled Gareth Madge, who became one of the first lawyers to work in-house for a UK police force when he was appointed legal director of South Wales and Gwent Police.

He could not have been appointed at a more challenging time, joining in the wake of a merger between South Wales and Gwent forces’ legal ­services departments. Madge, like many other in-house lawyers, is more than aware of the need for his ­organisation to streamline its legal function (21 February).

Away from the public sector, Simon Rajgopaul became the first in-house lawyer at the Royal Phamaceutical Society in October 2010 (1 August). Although being the sole in-houser, like many in-house counsel he has been busy this year setting up the society’s inaugural legal panel.

World view

Away from the world of legal panels, events across the globe have had a huge impact on certain in-house roles in 2011. Perhaps no more so than on Emanuel Maurice’s, general counsel at the European Bank of ­Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), who witnessed this first-hand this year as the world ­economic crisis and the Arab Spring changed his remit ­dramatically.

As Maurice explained in his ­interview (27 June), the EBRD was ­initially created to help countries make the transition from ­communism to a market economy through project financing. Having first focused its attention on eight countries in Central and Eastern Europe, the bank is now stepping up its investment to e9bn (£7.7bn) a year in 29 countries.

And from project financing deals to level playing fields. As London looks forward to the Olympic Games in 2012, we interviewed Arthur ­Graham, director of legal at UK
Anti-Doping (UKAD) (30 May). Since UKAD’s inception in 2009, Graham’s team has handled around 30 cases and is on track to maintain the UK’s compliance with international ­sporting agreements.