Appointment of Mahy, company secretaries see GC100 power up

The General Counsel 100 (GC100) knew that it needed a new chair when Barclays legal chief Mark Harding came to the end of his term.

When the time came for the group to elect a replacement in mid-January, no one was surprised when longtime GC100 member Helen Mahy, National Grid company secretary and general counsel, was elected.

Mahy, former group joint vice-chair, was the obvious replacement given the fact that she has played a pivotal role since its formation. With the added strength of company secretaries, the GC100 should use this power to continue along the trail blazed by Harding.

To achieve this the GC100 needs to remain focused on the issues regarding the amendments to the Companies Bill, which has been criticised for imposing more restrictions on UK business.

Harding tells The Lawyer: “We need to concentrate on implementing the effects [of the amendments], which involves translating the new legalisation into a practical guide for the board of directors.”

In-house depts get tighter grip on businesses
Restructuring and recruiting remains high on the agendas of in-house legal heads, with an increasing number of companies putting their legal departments at the heart of business strategy.

FTSE100 mining company Rio Tinto is one example. Earlier this month the mining giant overhauled its internal legal function to create the new position of global general counsel.

UK legal adviser Charles Lawton has organised the in-house lawyers into a central legal group, which gives the company a tighter rein on external legal spend.

The company will also appoint three general counsel for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (Emea), the Asia-Pacific region and the Americas, and lawyers will now be organised by both geographical position and practice area.

AstraZeneca, M&S put faith in in-house teams
Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca is also putting the legal group to the forefront of business strategy. It is is recruiting litigators to investigate the patents of acquisition targets in order to find weaknesses in their IP portfolios.

The hire of two lawyers from private practice at Marks & Spencer again proves the importance of the in-house legal department. Sara Wain-Heapy from Clifford Chance and Steven Haynes from Nabarro Nathanson were hired in the property team as part of its new expansion strategy.

With the role of the in-house lawyer changing, companies are constantly adding extra resources to their legal teams as the need for greater effectiveness increases. Expect them to consolidate their power over the next few years.

Nabarros twitchy as Land Securities picks Freshfields
The fledgling relationship between Land Securities and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer was a hot topic of discussion this month. The story, reported by The Lawyer on 15 January, came as Land Securities became one of nine UK property companies to convert to a real estate investment trust (Reit).

The news dealt a blow to Nabarro Nathanson, with the firm now competing with Freshfields to remain as Land Securities’ chief property adviser.

The magic circle firm has grown increasingly friendly with Land Securities over the past two years, largely thanks to international real estate group head Chris Morris.

His relationship with Mike Hussey, a company board member at Land Securities and managing director of the London portfolio, stems back to 1997 when Morris worked at Knight Frank before joining Canary Wharf Group in 1997.

Between 1997 and 2002 Hussey was head of leasing and marketing at Canary Wharf. It is no surprise to find that the firms in question were not keen to buy in to the whispers, given that they are working together on a number of Land Securities’ major London projects, including the redevelopment of One New Change, the former headquarters of Allen & Overy.

The legal world is still waiting patiently to find out who is appointed as its new corporate general counsel. The move to recruit a group general counsel will see it become the first major property development company to have a dedicated commercial in-house function.

It is understood that the preferred candidate turned it down, so it could be back to the drawing board.

Tyco overhauls in-house function
Eversheds began the new year on a high when Tyco ditched between 175 and 200 firms in favour of a revolutionary £10m agreement with the national firm (The Lawyer, 8 January).

Tyco followed that up by recruiting a dream team of senior in-house lawyers to bolster its Emea team, which has been revolutionised by general counsel Trevor Faure.

At the beginning of March 2007 Faure and his deputy general counsel and chief compliance officer Enrique Aznar will be reunited with French lawyer Paul Dan. All three worked together at Dell.

Three other senior counsel rejuvenated Tyco’s team in October 2006: Hana Ferklova joined from Vodafone with responsibility for Eastern Europe; Maria Hernandez, who joined from Nortel, where she was senior counsel for Southern Europe, has control of the regional team for Southern Europe and the Middle East; and Gerd Hagena joined from TRW Automotive with responsibility for Austria, Germany and Switzerland.