Top 10 in-house interviews of 2016

The Lawyer’s popular In-House Interview series, in which we profile a major general counsel or legal director each week, continued at full force in 2016.

We interviewed legal chiefs from companies in the FTSE 10, companies being sued by all and sundry and companies never far from the front pages, plus general counsel at the forefront of the legal market, shaking up how businesses understand and appreciate lawyers and making waves in their individual industries.

Here’s a round-up of some of our favourite interviews of the last year.

10. Travis Perkins general counsel Deborah Grimason

“If you’re seen as a policeman you’re dead in the water.” Grimason isn’t one to mince her words about compliance (or anything else). She arrived at Travis Perkins in 2014, her first post as a group general counsel and her first experience of a FTSE 100 company. She talks to The Lawyer about shaking things up.

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Deborah Grimason

9. Watchstone Group general counsel Stefan Borson

Borson is the sole lawyer of the company that everyone loves to sue. It’s a tough gig, but he wouldn’t change it. “I’ve never been so busy in my life,” he says. “Watchstone has been under attack for as long as I can remember.”

8. ATP Media head of legal Tom Bullock

Bullock is one of the few lawyers capable of upstaging one of the biggest tennis matches of the year, which was going on in the background while he was being interviewed. There’s a reason he is the tennis world’s top lawyer.

7. Uber Technologies legal director Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson
Matt Wilson

What a year it’s been for the four-strong in-house legal team at Uber UK. Being in court with (seemingly) almost everyone including their own drivers over employment rights has not taken the shine of the job off for head of legal Matt Wilson.

6. Metro Bank general counsel Sally-Ann James

Never before has an in-house interview been interrupted by a conga going past the window. But that is what happened when The Lawyer met Metro Bank’s GC. Helpfully, the company’s general counsel Sally-Ann James explains that all new joiners participate in this ritual.

5. News UK general counsel Angus McBride

Angus McBride represented News UK chief Rebekah Brooks when she was cleared in the phone-hacking scandal dubbed the ‘trial of the century’. Now, in a self-proclaimed “new era” for the Murdoch corporation, former Kingsley Napley partner McBride has taken on the role as the media company’s top lawyer.

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Kirsty Cooper

4. Phoenix Group legal director Phil Hagan

After Phoenix Group’s listing on the London Stock Exchange in 2010 things went   rather quiet for legal director Phil Hagan and his team. But that changed in 2014 when a series of reorganisations and acquisitions launched the legal team into the spotlight.

3. Aviva general counsel Kirsty Cooper

Long-time Aviva lawyer Cooper stepped up her game to get to the top role and expects her legal team to do the same. Her objective? For the in-house team to never be considered a ‘service provider’ again.

2. Sage executive vice-president and GC, Europe, Mark Parry

Jerome Abelman
Jerome Abelman

Some in the tech industry may see Sage as a software dinosaur but executive vice-president and general counsel for Europe Mark Parry is leading the charge to change public perceptions, starting with the legal team.

1. British American Tobacco general counsel Jerome Abelman

The Lawyer met BAT’s top lawyer at his office in Globe House, just weeks after he took on the top job and spearheaded a global overhaul of its legal function. Abelman talked to us about how to manage the legal issues of the biggest company in the FTSE and one that is certainly not shy of the court room.