In-house Commerce and Industry Team of the Year

Virgin Group

2nd place: Lattice
3rd place: Skandia Life UK
Shortlisted: Canary Wharf, JD Wetherspoon
The winner of the In-house Commerce and Industry Team of the Year Award, sponsored by Rowe & Maw, is Virgin Group. The diversity of the group ranges from financial products to bridal wear, but despite a turnover of around £3bn and having 25,000 employees worldwide, the group's lawyers number only 13.
The legal function, led by Helena Samaha, conducted the most high-profile review of external advisers this year. Those firms involved in the selection process offer praise for the thoroughness, fairness and innovative nature of the procedure in which all those on the shortlist were treated equally. Altogether, Samaha and her team have created a flexible approach to law firms on the panel to create the optimum service for Virgin subsidiaries.
In second place is the legal team at Lattice, the umbrella organisation for a variety of utilities, property and technology companies, including gas distribution company Transco.
In the past year the in-house team, led by Patrick
Somers, has had to cope with its demerger from BG Group. His 33-strong team is now the epicentre of the legal function because of the amount of regulation affecting the company.
Those firms that work with the team describe it as exacting but easy to work with. This is an in-house team that knows what it wants and is able to project manage those demands effectively, while at the same time keeping a close eye on personal development within the group.
In third place is the legal department at Skandia Life UK. Its nine-strong legal team has focused on developing
a risk management approach to its legal function. As part of this re-examination of the legal provision to a fast-growing life insurance, pensions and investment company, the legal team has spent time on the management of its external lawyers, having developed its own statement of requirements.