The Lawyer In-House Summit, 6-8 November

Two days of frenetic networking and learning have come to an end, and it’s been a memorable time in Berlin. I haven’t had space to write about half of what’s been going on. So here’s a taste of what else was on offer.

Adlon Hotel, Berlin, Friday afternon, 17:00 GMT

Two days of frenetic networking and learning have come to an end, and it’s been a memorable time in Berlin. I haven’t had the space to write about half of what’s been going on – the sessions, the chat, the food. So here’s a taste of what else was on offer.

Excellent way of jazzing up a presentation: Meekal Hashmi of Old Mutual Asset Management and Anne Pritam and their “Who Wants To Be A CPD Points Millionaire” session. Anne was Chris Tarrant and Meekal got to ask the audience about employment law.

Most naked sugar rush: Shoosmiths’ Alex Bishop and NEC legal chief Keith Marriott on their relationship management session called Pick And Mix. The sweets and chocolates on offer were awesome. Second prize to CPA Management Systems, whose stand boasted titanic Quality Streets. I think I ate most of them.

Best ice-breaker: my colleague Ben Moshinsky’s incipient moustache as part of Team Tulkinghorn’s sponsored ‘tache-growing in aid of prostate cancer. He looks bizarre, but it made great conversation. Unfortunately my colleague Tom Phillips still can’t manage more than a minor fuzz. But you can sponsor them here.

How to top last year’s wheeze: Burges Salmon just about managed it. The firm’s session last year on climate change saw them bring along hundreds of mini-polar bear glove puppets. Aware that half their audience needed to bring back presents for their families. Burges Salmon thoughtfully provided little Berlin Bears for their session with Kiz Kelly of Nationwide. A few may already be on EBay.

Weirdest introduction to a speech: the motivational bloke from Lane4 who told us he was a human.

Crush of the conference: obviously, the General. He was being followed around by male and female alike.

Most inaccurate bit of geography: Pinsent Mason’s stress ball in the shape of a globe. India has virtually disappeared and Australia is the size of Africa. Bloody good to play with, though.

Adlon Hotel, Berlin, Friday lunchtime, 12:00 GMT

This might surprise you, but the credit crunch has not actually been the main topic of conversation here. Yesterday I overheard a lot of relieved chat about the Bank of England’s cut in interest rates, but in-house lawyers have a more pragmatic and less jittery attitude than their deal junkie cousins in private practice, probably because they’re not obsessed with PEP.

Still, there’s been plenty of hard-headed talk about business risk and the worsening economic climate. There was a lively session this morning about service innovation, given by NEC Group general counsel Keith Marriott and Shoosmiths partner Alex Bishop.

Inevitably the subject of hourly rates dominated, and one participant asked other in-housers what would be their reaction if their law firms wanted to raise their fees. The reaction was swift and brutal. “If a firm wants to raise their rates in this climate,” said one in-houser, “then I’d question how well they understand business.”

Killer stat of the morning, from Navigant Consultants’ talk on fraud prevention: six per cent of any given workforce will be engaged in well, fiddling.

I haven’t even said anything about the star speaker last night – General Sir Mike Jackson. A fascinating canter through the ethics and practicalities of military intervention, with an outstanding Q&A session at the end.

Best question? “Where do you think Osama bin Laden is? (Answer: the military know roughly where, but you need to pinpoint him to within ten metres to do the job properly.)

There was a rush to buy Sir Mike a whisky at the bar afterwards. It was quite sweet to see him chat to BAe counsel Roger Wiltshire, by the way.

Adlon Hotel, Berlin, Friday morning, 10:45 GMT

Meekal Hashmi of Old Mutual Asset Managers and Anne Pritam of Stephenson Harwood kicked off an interesting debate this morning. Employment issues always loom large in the minds of in-house lawyers, so this session was well-attended, despite the late night last night (of which more later).

Identifying fair reasons to exit directors and senior managers is a fraught issue, and there are plenty of audience questions. It’s clear that one of the biggest legal headaches coming up will be the issue of how employers cope with the logistics of shared parental leave between mothers and fathers.

James Blendis of T-Mobile, along with the senior clerks at 39 Essex Street, had some interesting things to say this morning about using the Bar.

It’s remarkable (and actually, under-reported) how many in-house lawyers go direct to chambers. James – whose legal spend is hardly negligible and who knows the law firm market well – even uses chambers clerks to gather intelligence on specialists in key areas. That might come as a surprise to some private practice solicitors, who tend to see themselves as central to the information flow.

Adlon Hotel, Berlin, Thursday afternoon, 16:00 GMT

I just met a lawyer who told me that this hotel is so high-tech that only drunk people can work any of the controls.

I’m not sure about that, but the lifts at the Adlon can only be operated through waving your key and simultaneously pressing a button. This has defeated several other delegates, as well. One confessed to me this morning that she kept having to walk in and out of the lift nonchalantly for at least ten minutes before she worked it out.

Anyway, there was a great seminar late afternoon on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and diversity, led by Barings Asset Management’s Sandie Okoro and Edwards Angell’s Kevin Perry. Sadistically, they designed it as an interactive session.

What’s so striking is that five years ago there would have been an argument about the intrinsic merits of a diversity and CSR programme. But as today’s session demonstrated, it’s not just big organisations such as Tyco or BT who are behind it, but the mass of in-house counsel.

Because of this I missed the seminar led by James Eadie QC of Blackstone Chambers and Justine Campbell of Telefonica.

I sat next to James on the plane coming over and he kept encouraging us to storm the first class section. Anarchist.

Anyway, their talk was about regulators behaving badly, complete with YouTube video, which went down rather well. What went down less well was Justine’s shocking statistic that regulation as a whole costs £100bn a year.

Certain of the delegates are all a-twitter that General Sir Mike Jackson is turning up to speak this evening at dinner. The woman who wondered whether he’d be in uniform will remain nameless.

Adlon Hotel, Berlin, Thursday morning, 11:00 GMT

I’m sitting in the event HQ and it’s all rather manic. There’s an introductory session for in-house lawyers only going on at the moment down the corridor (oh, to be a fly on the wall there) and this afternoon’s speakers are scurrying in and out of the office, bearing various props.

The Lawyer In-House Summit is one of the biggest legal conferences in Europe, with delegates from a huge variety of UK companies, from telecoms to leisure, from financial services to property. We’ve been covering the impact of the credit crunch on private practice extensively, so this is going to be a great way of taking the temperature of the in-house sector.

Delightfully enough, the credit crunch hasn’t entirely taken over conversation (yet). The mood in the bar last night was pretty upbeat, and the topics were gratifyingly random. Overheard: “I used to play the oboe”; “It’s a great time for you litigators. There are always going to be nutters around.” “Are the religious Republicans a bit like Anglicans?”

The Lawyer’s logo is everywhere. It’s so organised that the hotel staff have become slightly punch-drunk. One of the hotel welcome committee congratulated a Lawyer event organiser for having the foresight to issue so many delegates with red flowers in their lapels. She didn’t have the heart to tell him they were poppies.

Catrin Griffiths, Editor