Diane Scott: Cancer Research UK

Its own research facilities, 650 retail outlets, 34 per cent of income derived from legacies. Cancer Research UK is a huge charity with a host of legal issues. By Deborah Rothfield

Even though the number of people being diagnosed with cancer is rising, thanks to charities such as Cancer Research UK, the number of cancer-related deaths in this country is falling. Cancer Research is the largest independent cancer research organisation in the world. It was created by a merger between the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) and the Cancer Research Campaign. The charity works alone and in partnership with others to carry out research into the causes of cancer and to develop effective treatments.

The lion’s share of Cancer Research’s pre-tax income of £338.9m last year came from public donations.

“Almost all our income comes from public donations; a miniscule amount comes from government, although they’re supportive and work with us on projects,” says Diane Scott, director of legal at the charity.

“It’s the passion that volunteers have for Cancer Research, and our chief executive officer, Professor Alex Markham, has when he lobbies government, for example on the recent drive to ban smoking in public places – on which the Government’s response was disappointing – or to get more cancer patients on clinical drug trials, that inspires me and makes my job so rewarding,” adds Scott.

Scott joined Cancer Research in 2002 on a three-month contract with ICRF (one of Cancer Research’s wholly-owned technology transfer subsidiaries aimed at assisting in the preparation of licence agreements and to review precedents). She was then seconded from ICRF to Cancer Research to handle legal work arising out of the 2002 merger.

Subsequently, Scott merged the two legal teams and recruited three additional lawyers to create an integrated legal function. Today the merged legal function boasts eight lawyers, including Scott and two trainees.

Scott hired a dedicated clinical trials lawyer from the pharmaceutical industry to work for the drug development office, managing the contracts that need to be put in place with hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and patients to run a clinical trial.

Additionally, Scott added an employment lawyer to manage Cancer Research’s 3,000-strong workforce and a property lawyer to handle the legal work relating to the charity’s 650 retail outlets.

Cancer Research’s in-house legal function also dedicates a significant amount of time to issues arising out of the charity’s fundraising efforts. These include the Race for Life, abseiling at Twickenham and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

Scott was promoted last month to director of legal, having previously been head of legal. She replaced Peter Hinchcliffe, who had dual roles as director of legal and company secretary, with those roles having now been split. Brian Sweetland, formerly director and company secretary at Friends Provident, will take over as company secretary. Scott reports to chief operating officer Harpal Kumar, who in turn reports to Markham.

“We had to have the right skills set to align with the charity’s needs and the sheer breadth of the work we do,” Scott says. Along with Cancer Research’s retail network and property portfolio, it employs scientists, gives scientists grants and has its own research properties, including the London Research Institute.

Although most legal work is handled in-house, Cancer Research has a legal panel comprising Henmans, Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, Wilsons and Withers.

Scott says: “We have panel reviews regularly – every three years. Farrer & Co worked on the merger and we still have a very good working relationship with them, but when it comes to top-tier, high-value contested legacy work, we want a hard-hitting firm like Withers.”

Cancer Research has a separate team to handle work relating to the administration of estates. But when disputes arise out of the legacies left to the charity, this work is farmed out to external lawyers. Cancer Research receives 34 per cent of its income – more than £100m a year – from legacies or from being nominated as a residuary beneficiary.

Legal work arising out of contested legacies is outsourced to Henmans, Wilsons and Withers. The latter has dealt with high-level work for the past two years, while Henmans and Wilsons were instructed in February 2005 and handle smaller cases.

Major projects for Cancer Research in the last year have included implementing a clinical trials directive from Europe in the UK, which had a big impact on the management of clinical trials and their contractual arrangements, and the building of a new research institute at Cambridge University.

A current project, funded together with the Department of Health and the Medical Research Council, involves establishing a national tissue bank in the UK, where both cancerous and normal tissue can be linked with human data, providing information fundamental to research. “We had to set up a separate charitable company to establish the tissue bank,” says Scott, “which is of public benefit.”

Cancer Research’s pre-tax income for 2005 is looking higher than last year’s, and there is another £4.3m set aside for major projects and new research buildings. Its prognosis for the future is healthy.
Diane Scott
Director of legal
Cancer Research UK

Organisation Cancer Research UK
Sector Charity
Employees 3,000
Annual legal spend £250,000
Legal capability Eight
Director of legal Diane Scott
Reporting to Chief operating officer Harpal Kumar
Main law firms Henmans, Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, Wilsons and Withers