Amazon swoops in on City in bid to build Europe legal capability

E-commerce giant Amazon is bulking up its legal capability in Europe, with lawyers from Allen & Overy (A&O), Eversheds and Moneygram the latest to join.

Eversheds senior associate Ben Cavender and Moneygram senior legal counsel Oleysa Leary are both expected to join Amazon next month. Cavender is understood to be relocating to Luxembourg in order to manage Amazon’s EMEA real estate legal matters, while Leary is set to join as payments corporate counsel.

Sources say that Amazon is on a mission to beef up its number of in-house lawyers in Europe. Leary and Cavender join soon after A&O associate Edward O’Flynn, who joined Amazon as corporate counsel in March, and Edwards Wildman Palmer solictor Jo Love, who has been on secondment at Amazon since February.  

In a sign of the increased need for legal capability in Europe for Amazon and its peers, Lewis Silkin client Lush won a monumental trademark battle against Amazon at the High Court earlier this year (11 February 2014). The case was a cautionary tale for retailers promoting alternative products in relation to specific search terms. 

Amazon’s bid to increase its legal capacity comes as the Fortune 500 company begins the process for hiring 1,000 full-time staff in Florida after opening two new distribution centres in Florida. The internet giant is also expected to create a number of new jobs in Dublin after it opens the doors to a 69,000 sq office next month.

It is not known if Amazon is planning on reducing its reliance on external legal advisers in the long-term. The company carried out an overhaul of its Europe external legal advisers last February (25 February 2013), a review process which was led from its headquarters in Seattle, where general counsel David Zapolsky is based.

Zapolsky, a former partner at Dorsey & Whitney, took on the role from Michelle Wilson in September 2012, after a previous position as Amazon’s associate general counsel for litigation and regulatory matters. The UK in-house team is headed by UK legal director Robert Mackenzie.

The company’s main big-ticket relationships in the US are with Debevoise & Plimpton, Fenwick & West, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher and K&L Gates (see table below).

In 2012 Amazon struck an agreement with Waterstones, which was advised by Taylor Wessing, that led to the UK book retailer selling the US group’s Kindle e-reader in its stores and on its website. It is unclear whether Amazon instructed outside lawyers for the deal.   

“They go ballistic on external counsel,” said one anonymous attorney when asked for some insight into Amazon’s legal team a few years ago. “The company as a whole keeps very, very schtum. They don’t like any publicity – they won’t even do conferences.” 

Amazon did not respond to any requests for comment. 

For more on Amazon’s in-house legal team, see The Lawyer Transatlantic Elite 2012 .

Key external firms

CMS Cameron McKenna

Debevoise & Plimpton

Edwards Wildman

Fenwick & West

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher

Herbert Smith

K&L Gates


Osborne Clarke

Pacifica Law Group

Stoel Rives