General counsels are used to having law firms pitching and lobbying to employ them, but Avanade director of legal affairs for Europe Manoj Paul is keen on making law firms his clients.
Avanade is a joint venture between Microsoft and Accenture, established in 2000 in the US. It combines the consultancy services of Accenture and the technical wizardry of Microsoft to make a company specialising in integrating or establishing Microsoft-based software platforms for businesses. And, Paul says, City law firms are exactly the type of business the company is targeting.
With a self-confessed fluency in “geek speak”, Paul has had a less-than-traditional route to becoming the chief European legal officer of one of the world’s fastest-growing IT consultancies.
After training at Andersons Solicitors in Nottingham, Paul left the law and became an IT programmer, working in local government and for BT, among other postings.
“There came a point where I could either stay and make a career out of being an IT professional, or return to the law,” says Paul. “There were some very good reasons for doing law in the first place. I find that having been on both sides of the fence has served me in good stead. I can speak geek with our clients if they want to talk it and I can also handle the legal side of it and get right into a contract with them.”
Paul spent three years as Cazenove’s head of IT legal before joining IT company Synstar as its head of legal; he stayed there until Hewlett Packard purchased the company. By the time he joined Avanade in March 2005 to create an in-house function for the company’s European business, Paul had not worked in private practice since his days as a trainee.
“It’s a pretty simple role,” he says of his Avanade post. “To provide a full service to the business, focusing on sales and on the commercial aspects. I can also focus on Avanade’s leadership teams and I’m able to contribute to the strategic direction of the European business as well as at a global level.”
At present, the core work for Paul is on contracts between the company and its clients, although an explosion of European expansion has provided plenty of variety across the continent.
“It’s been a fantastic time to join, as the business has seen some major expansion into a number of different jurisdictions in 2005,” he enthuses.
The company is now operating in France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland as well as across the four Nordic countries and in the UK. The UK-based operation is the European headquarters, where the legal capability is based.
Paul reports to the general manager of both the UK and European businesses, while also keeping in regular contact with the global general counsel Mark Voigts in the US. While not having a direct relationship, he is also able to call upon the might of the legal departments of both parent companies, Microsoft and Accenture.
“We have to be very adaptable to the business requirements of growing into new areas,” says Paul. “That doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll be needing new lawyers, but it is important to keep a critical mass to keep up with the business needs.”
The company has used Allen & Overy for its corporate work in expanding across Europe, while Osborne Clarke has been providing advice on employment law. Paul has developed relationships with a network of local firms in each country to provide advice where needed, but most of the client-facing contract work is kept in-house.
“It’s not about panels for me, it’s about relationships with firms; and I’ve been around long enough that I know a number of good people within the industry,” explains Paul. “Once I’ve identified a requirement, I know an individual or character with the knowledge or experience to do the job for me.”
Paul declines to reveal how much the company spent on legal services in 2005, claiming it would be “an extraordinary year” given the company’s European expansion and the first full year of having a legal function.
But the cost of the legal function is mitigated through what Paul calls value-added services that he provides to the business units.
“We get to know the type of entity we’re dealing with intimately and I can help guide, assist and support the local managers in their business aims,” he says. “The company’s six years old. It’s not a start-up anymore. We have our own in house legal function now and we have to recognise the maturity of our own company and where we’re headed with this.”
With Microsoft and Accenture backing the deal, it is a pretty safe bet that the company is headed in the right direction.
Director of Legal Affairs
|Legal capability||Seven (two in UK and one each in France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Nordics)|
|Employees||Europe 1,000; globally 4,000|
|Director of Legal Affairs||Manoj Paul|
|Reporting to||UK general manager Mark Taylor, European general manager Andrew White and global general counsel Mark Voigts|
|Main advisers||Allen & Overy, Osborne Clarke|