The first thing we do, let’s hire all the lawyers: RSC launches inaugural panel

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) new general counsel, Marina Zain, is to put together the theatre company’s inaugural panel of legal advisers.

Former British American Tobacco legal counsel Zain kicked off the supplier review at the end of 2013 as part of a three-year strategy to overhaul the company’s legal provision.

Zain is planning to issue tender documents for the panel by the end of June with a view to having a formal roster in place within a year. It follows her appointment to the permanent role in November 2013 after six months as interim general counsel (4 November 2013).

“It will be a tender process and I am looking to have a fairly small, manageable panel,” she said.

The panel will be the registered charity’s first and the criteria could include requirements for a percentage of work done on a pro bono basis. The RSC generates 73 per cent of its own income and took £31.6m through its box office last year. It also takes a large volume in donations.

“I think [the pro bono requirement] is probably going to be based on percentage,” said Zain, adding that she had not decided exactly what to ask firms for.

The in-house lawyer also mooted the idea of using external firms to provide training and education for the theatre’s departments in the future.

“I would like firms to show the RSC a real desire to build a partnership and that means it’s a two-way street. It’s not just us giving them money, they need to show they want to give us back something in return,” she said.

Zain launched the supply review at the end of last year and is in the process of analysing the group’s legal spend. Last year the company had a legal budget of £70,000.

“The legal budget is not huge because we’re a charity,” said Zain. “It varies depending on whether we’ve got any major projects on but that’s where being creative and thinking outside the box becomes important.”

Though it does not have a formal list, the company currently instructs Ashurst on real estate work, as well as passing other real estate mandates to Wragge & Co partner Chris Hunt and Foot Anstey partner Patrick Howarth. Zain also hands work to Harbottle & Lewis theatre partner Neil Adleman.

For its work in the US, with sister organisation the RSCA, it instructs Weil, Gotshal & Manges tax partner Kimberly Blanchard.

Ashurst does a large proportion of pro bono work for the RSC, having been instructed on its £112.8m transformation project which kicked off in 2005. Weil Gotshal also gives Zain a hefty number of hours for free. 

Zain was hired to the general counsel position after six months as interim general counsel following the exit of actress and former general counsel Caroline Barnett, who had been at the company since 2008.