Thoroughly modern in-housers

What do Aviva GC Monica Risam and Standard Life GC Malcolm Wood have in common? To start with, they’re the subjects of in-depth analyses this week. It might seem as if the two legal heads have had very different tasks to deal with. Risam’s was an exercise in management of external legal costs; Wood’s the management of a crucial piece of litigation. Both have added value to their business.

Catrin Griffiths

Our cover story on Aviva’s recent and much-awaited panel review is essential reading both for GCs thinking of running a tender and for law firms hopeful of polishing up their pitching. Jonathan Ames dissects Aviva’s tender exercise in minute detail, from day one to the announcement of the successful firms. Risam, working closely with her procurement colleagues, ran a tight ship, demanding a 15-25 per cent fee discount for firms pitching for the plc level panel.

Wood, meanwhile, steered an enormous and complex piece of litigation to a successful conclusion, and he did it on a conditional fee arrangement (CFA) with Addleshaw Goddard partner Richard Leedham. CFAs are slightly in limbo, but Standard Life astutely cut its own risk by adopting the arrangement and controlled costs substantially by getting the in-house team to do the witness statements.

What emerges, slightly obliquely, from both interviews is that while both Risam and Wood value historical relationships, particular expertise can get external lawyers a shot at a mandate. In 2006 Wood used Slaughter and May ahead of its usual firm Clifford Chance for its demutualisation because of Slaughters partner Glen James’s record in this area. You’ll be unsurprised to hear that Slaughter and May was not backward in maintaining its relationship with the insurer; it is now one of Standard Life’s closest advisers at board level. Addleshaw Goddard had not been a regular adviser to Standard Life either, but its creative CFA proposal got it the business.

Over at Aviva the legal department included Morgan Lewis on the pitch because it had picked up some key Dewey & LeBoeuf insurance specialists. Furthermore, a bit of cold-calling can work; litigation wunderkinder Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan scored a meeting with
Risam and ended up winning Aviva’s dispute resolution business.

Adding value to the business: that is very much the theme of our annual General Counsel Strategy Summit in Lisbon next April. It’s going to be quite something, so watch this space.