The Royal British Legion has appointed Withers as its principal legal adviser following a move by general counsel Luke Joannou to formalise the charity’s relationships with its external firms.

Withers’ work for the armed forces charity will include advising on governance issues, regulation and commercial projects. It is the first time the Legion has had a formal principal legal adviser.

Joannou joined as general counsel from Cancer Research UK in June 2014 to overhaul its six-lawyer team.

The charity now has an annual legal budget of around £150,000, though it receives approximately that value again in pro-bono advice.

The recent changes are the result of a plan by Joannou to cut the charity’s costs and drive up efficiency.

”When I joined I presented the executive board with a two-year strategy to get full integration of the legal team within the organisation,” said Joannou, who added he was set to meet this target early.

“Our lawyers now benefit every facet of the business. We’re now intricately involved in the protection of our IP rights, and I have a four-person risk team that sits within legal.”

Withers will advise the firm on the legal issues of managing the high-profile Remembrance Sunday commemorations on 8 November, which include advising on insurance, risk, property and IP issues. The firm will also provide legal advice for the charity’s fundraising initiatives, which raised around £66.5m in 2014.

Withers commercial head Chris Priestley said the firm would “assist the charity with its important activities” and “hopes to help the Legion to maximise the effectiveness of its endeavours”.

The Royal British Legion has no legal panel but works with a number of other firms: Squire Patton Boggs provides property legal services; Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer handles corporation transactional work and transfer and employment matters; Mayer Brown is working with the charity on the reorganisation of its pension fund; Hogan Lovells handles much of its litigation, including the Legion’s involvement in the Brecon Beacons ‘SAS deaths’ inquest; and Hilary Meredith Solicitors advises on military compensation issues. Clyde & Co also advises the Legion on disputes matters through the organisation’s insurers.

The Lawyer interviewed Joannou in an in-house interview published on 2 November. Read the full article here.