With just days to go until The Lawyer Summit 2008, the general counsel leading the sessions are preparing to ;provide ;practical solutions to some of the most pressing issues facing in-house legal teams.
The event, which takes place at the Hotel Adlon Kempinski in Berlin from 6 to 8 November, is The Lawyer’s ninth European forum for senior lawyers and in-house counsel.
As reported in The Lawyer last week (27 October), one of the major themes running through the summit will be the impact of the credit crunch. Other issues include law firms’ relationships with the bar, how organisations can move beyond risk management to best leverage their legal resources, and dealing with over-regulation.
Justine ;Campbell, general counsel for Telefónica Europe, will be running a session together with James Eadie QC of Blackstone Chambers entitled ‘Regulators behaving badly: What can you do about it?’
Campbell will draw upon her successes in challenging “interventionist” regulators at the European and domestic level.
“Regulation is an ongoing day-to-day cost,” she said. “It’s very expensive and regulators are increasingly interventionist. As a telecoms provider, we have to roll out a massively expensive network while our margins are getting more and more squeezed. There are competition laws in place – that ought to be the default, because over-interventionist regulation can distort the market.”
Speaking of how organisations might combat the regulatory straitjacket, Campbell said: “We were the first company to complain to the European ombudsman, which was a successful process. Our hope is that the more people that do it, the more helpful it will be.”
Another option, she argued, is to challenge the statutory regulation at the local level.
Campbell feels her company’s experiences will prove relevant to many of her peers.
“I think there’ll be a number of people who have similar frustrations,” she said. “Quite often the only opportunity to challenge investigations is at the end. You often feel quite stitched up because they are supposedly neutral investigators, but you feel they have an axe to grind.”
Richard Shoylekov, company secretary and general counsel at Wolseley, who will be speaking at a session on the credit crunch and corporate liabilities, said: “We’ll give practical examples of the experience we’ve gone through and how it’s changed our priorities. We’ve had to respond to the downturn in the housing market and make redundancies, and that has diverted time and attention away from seeking new markets.
“From an in-house lawyer’s perspective, it’s about understanding the pressures on our business colleagues, the constraints on growth, new sources of growth and making sure we’re partnering with them so that we can decide which areas to scale down and exit.”
Sandie Okoro, global general counsel at Baring Asset Management (BAM), will also be sharing practical tools at the session she is presenting on corporate social responsibility.
This will cover issues such as ;whether ;positive discrimination is a good thing, striking the appropriate balance between profits and taking an ethical standpoint, and the merits of community involvement.
Okoro declined to elaborate on the specific advice she will be giving, but said: “It’ll be an interactive session. We’ll be looking at the whole topic from a slightly different angle and it’ll include a number of exercises.”
BAM does not require its external advisers to provide diversity statistics, but with a number of organisations – including BT and Transport for London – having done so, the topic is becoming increasingly relevant.