Bayer launches first UK legal department

New head Wilkinson to reassess external lawyers; Bristows to benefit

The UK arm of healthcare giant Bayer is setting up its first legal department, giving Bristows a foot in the door in the process.

The German company has appointed Oxford University Press (OUP) lawyer Mark Wilkinson to head up the newly-formed group.

Wilkinson, who joins as company solicitor, left Lovells in 1996 for OUP after a five-year stint at the City firm.

He will be based in Bayer’s UK corporate headquarters in Newbury, Berkshire, and will report to company secretary Martin Newson, who previously dealt with all legal requirements.

Wilkinson will be assessing the role of external advisers, although he adds that it is too early to make any definite plans.

Wilkinson will, though, continue working with 26-partner Bristows at Bayer, after first instructing the firm at OUP. It will be the first time the firm has worked for Bayer.

Wilkinson was particularly impressed with Bristows’ intellectual property and healthcare capabilities. But he concedes that he has a preference for mid-sized firms. “Bristows are a bit smaller than the main London firms,” says Wilkinson. “It’s a personal feeling – you get to know all the partners and I find that useful.”

CMS Cameron McKenna and Simmons & Simmons have both worked for Bayer before, carrying out corporate and pharmaceutical work. Smaller Berkshire-based firms have also advised Bayer in the past. Wilkinson points out, however, that the introduction of Bristows will not be to the detriment of the other firms.

Wilkinson is the first lawyer to work for the UK arm of Bayer, but stresses that any plans to develop an in-house team are some way off. He says: “I’ll work out what needs to be done, do some of it, and then assess in a year’s time or so whether something else needs to be done.”

As well as providing legal advice, Wilkinson’s remit includes providing training for business managers. This will initially include running a series of seminars on contract law.

Bayer is one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, with over 120,000 employees.