TIMES Newspapers has hired Finers Stephens Innocent senior associate Pia Sarma as its head of litigation to replace Gillian Phillips, who left for The Guardian earlier this year.

Phillips was hired as head of Guardian News and Media’s legal team in January after incumbent Nuala Cosgrove left to join media regulator Ofcom.

Sarma will join The Times in July as second in command to general counsel Alastair Brett. She will be responsible for The Times and The Sunday Times on editorial content and claims against the newspaper.

She said that, with The Times’ focus on commercial issues and the impending general election, “it’s going to be a very busy year”.

Sarma, who has been with Finers for the last three years, trained at Slaughter and May as a litigator before moving to White & Case. She added a media dimension to her practice when she joined Finers.

Sarma counts The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and CNN among her current clients.

Phillips, a former Clifford Chance trainee, had been at The Times for eight years and is a former in-house lawyer for the BBC.