The Mirror Group has provided a flood of headlines in the financial press over the past few months. Viewed by some as a company that has lost its way, the group now has two other media firms circling around each other looking at whether it would be a good link-up.
The two companies Trinity and Regional Independent Media (RIN) are regional paper groups, a sector that has fared better than the national press in recent years. They would view the national, local and broadcast capabilities owned by the Mirror Group as additional feathers in their corporate caps.
With the departure of the Mirror Group’s former chief executive David Montgomery, Trinity now seems to be interested again after initially pulling out of talks because it wanted its own chief executive Philip Graf in charge of the merged group.
Lovell White Durrant is handling the legal work for the Mirror Group on the potential deal while McFarlanes is acting for RIN and Trinity has engaged Freshfields and Herbert Smith.
In the day-to-day workings of the Mirror Group’s legal department about 80 per cent of the non-editorial work is done in house. Most pre-publication editorial work, checking for defamation problems, is done in-house and about half of the post-publication complaints are dealt with by outside firms.
Very little legal work comes from the TV side of the business with libel, breach of confidence and breach of contract work from the main London titles making up the bulk of the work.
Recently, the Mirror has beefed up the corporate and commercial side of its in-house work, moving a senior lawyer from the editorial side to the non-editorial department. There are now three lawyers in the editorial team, three for TV work two company commercial lawyers and head of legal Paul Vickers.
Vickers came to the Mirror Group in 1992 after seven years with TVam. His first in-house position after qualifying as a barrister was with the London Daily News.
The size of the team has grown as the Mirror Group has expanded into other areas of business. For example, the TV team did not exist four years ago.
Although there are no immediate plans to expand the legal team, Vickers says he would look at bringing in another contracts lawyer or intellectual property specialist.
“The new media side of things is growing all the time and all the contracts involve intellectual property work,” he says.
In selecting outside firms, Vickers looks at cost, availability and the ability to understand the way the company works.
He sends work outside his team if it needs greater man power than he can provide or if he needs an objective view.
“Sometimes we need to be slightly detached and sometimes we can get too emotionally involved in a case to deal with it effectively,” says Vickers. “Most high profile libel cases can be pretty emotional.”
Head of legal
|FTSE 100 ranking||172|
|Market capitalisation||About £1bn|
|Head of legal||Paul Vickers|
|Legal function||Nine lawyers|
|Main location for lawyers||Canary Wharf, London|
|Main law firms||Lovell White Durrant, Lewis Silkin (TV work), Swepstone Walsh, Davenport Lyons, Theodore Goddard, Olswang. In Scotland, McGrigor Donald and Levy & McRae|