In 1851, German-born immigrant Paul Julius Reuter opened an office in the City of London to transmit stock prices between London and Paris via the new Calais-Dover cable.
Reuter’s innovative use of technology – two years earlier, he had been using carrier pigeons – has remained a core value of the global news and financial data giant that still bears his name.
Development of the telegraph in the 1870s helped Reuters expand internationally.
By the time the company moved to 85 Fleet Street in 1939 – its head office today – it had become a leading newswire service.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Reuters developed innovative financial data and trading systems. Since its £700m flotation in London and the US (on NASDAQ) in 1984 and a series of acquisitions, Reuters has become a world leader in its market.
Its legal department is based in London (16 lawyers), with major teams in New York (14 lawyers), Geneva (five lawyers at trading subsidiary Reuters SA), Palo Alto in California’s Silicon Valley, Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo.
Staffed with lawyers mainly from City firms, the department is led by general counsel Stephen Mitchell and deputy general counsel Andrew Garard.
“Reuters is at the leading edge of everything it does,” says Garard. “It’s a challenging environment, and our lawyers are encouraged to take part in the business process, rather than just cast out pearls of wisdom from an ivory tower.”
Below Garard and Mitchell, the structure divides into geographic, practice and business groups. There are three general counsel for Asia, Europe and the Americas.
Practice groups reflect the specialist areas of law. These include competition, litigation, IP, IT/media, and company/commercial – which handles M&A, group structure, tax and company secretarial.
Business groups also involve lawyers specialising in the core functions across Reuters’ 220 or more subsidiaries. These include trading systems, global sales and third-party suppliers.
Workload ranges from media and data protection law to corporate, IT and commercial matters. Reuters has its own defamation experts, although ‘libel reading’ is contracted out, as is property and employment law.
Contractual matters can range from picture deals with photographers to agreements for using data from more than 250 trading exchanges worldwide.
Regulatory law is also important, as Reuters is regulated by the Financial Services Authority, and by the Bank of England with regard to its Spot FX currency trading system.
Garard, at 32, is one of the youngest lawyers in the world in such a senior corporate position.
Trained at Clifford Chance, he spent six months in Singapore. He then joined Freshfields and, while still in Hong Kong, won Reuters Asia as a client. Reuters later poached him.
Garard says: “We have one of the best in-house departments around, at least as good as in any firm. They’re dedicated, dynamic, hard-working and intelligent lawyers – but there’s also a sense of fun here, too.”
Reuters makes big demands on its external lawyers. “Reuters’ business is complex, and our panel firms have to understand it in order to properly advise us,” says Garard.
“We look for the best individual practitioners. We also value creativity, lateral thinking, commercial awareness and a ‘can-do’ approach.”
Deputy head of legal and deputy general counsel
|FTSE 100 ranking||number 28|
|Legal function||Around 40 lawyers (c80 staff total)|
|Head of legal||Andrew Garard|
|Reporting to||Stephen Mitchell, general counsel|
|Main location for lawyers||London, Geneva, New York, Palo Alto (California), Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo|
|Main law firms||UK) Slaughter and May; Clifford Chance; Linklaters; Rowe & Maw; Ashurst Morris Crisp; Simmons & Simmons; (US) Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz; Davis Polk & Wardwell; Sullivan & Cromwell; Debevoise & Plimpton; Tester Hurwitz; Weil Gotshal & Manges|