In 1994, a young South African lawyer named Kevin Gold was sitting in his office at central London practice Bayer Rosin flipping a coin to decide the future of the firm he ran. ‘Heads or tails… Olswang or SJ Berwin…’ A third, lesser-known firm was also at the back of his mind: Mishcon de Reya. It was no coincidence the three firms were vying for Bayer’s hand. Formed in 1985 and specialising in litigation, corporate, private client and real estate work, the nine-partner firm was a highly profitable little outfit with revenues of £9m and strong ties to lucrative South African business.
With new legislation putting human rights on the business agenda, we teamed up with Herbert Smith Freehills to gather lawyers and experts from a range of industries to debate the key issues
Business and human rights debate in association with Herbert Smith Freehills | Winter 2016/17
In our recent Insight report on business and human rights – published in September in association with Herbert Smith Freehills – we noted how the arrival of the Modern Slavery Act (MSA) in the UK in 2015 has crystallised awareness of the human rights concerns in business. We heard from in-house human rights experts how the debate over the last 15 years had moved beyond a vague concept to which lip service had been paid to become a mainstream business consideration, combining legal liability with potentially devastating reputational risk.
Alison Gaskins’ remit on joining Barclays’ legal department was formidable. Group general counsel Bob Hoyt told her in no uncertain terms: ‘I want to be able to have a conversation with my CEO which clearly states what the legal department is doing for its internal customers, including what it costs and why it costs what it does.’ A former management consultant with over ten years’ experience in COO and change management roles at Barclays, even Gaskins was initially daunted by the scope of this request. But it became clear that by understanding the underlying economics of Barclays’ legal department and how they can be influenced, it would be possible to revolutionise how legal services were delivered to the business. The process has to date covered five interlinked aspects: matter management, e-billing, the law firm panel, lawyer time recording and management information (MI).
Collaboration has, admittedly, become something of a buzzword in the legal profession these days. But all signs suggest that it is far more than a passing fad. Throughout the legal world, as in most knowledge-based industries, two trends are crashing together. On the one hand, vast increases in knowledge are forcing professionals to specialise, whether by discipline, geography or problem class. On the other hand, vast increases in the complexity of today’s problems call for those specialists to collaborate across disciplinary and organisational boundaries to tackle those sophisticated issues. In short, the tension between these two trends is what produces the need for effective collaboration.
The multi-faceted nature of risk makes it a complex subject to manage. Formal structures and a pro-active approach can support both the handling of effective risk management and mitigation, as well as a crisis. The general counsel has an important part to play at all stages. Having an effective relationship with the business, as well as experience in areas such as M&A, health and safety, competition, compliance, regulatory and reputation management (to name but a few), can see the GC as ringmaster. However, wherever the GC is not seen as core to the organisation, they will be trying to defend the organisation from the sidelines. [Continue Reading]
The market for electric vehicles (EVs) has not yet taken off, but this could be about to change. The ratification of the Paris Agreement means that many countries now need to reduce their emissions and in the UK we also need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, particularly in the transport sector, to meet our Climate Change Act 2008 targets.
It is trite to say that large infrastructure projects are complex and their development requires activity at the point at which commerce, regulation and policy converge. But there are projects of such magnitude that they may require extraordinary measures in each arena to deliver. Recognition of this has led to a variety of measures, usually involving new law, designed to facilitate them.
What do president Donald Trump, chancellor Philip Hammond and premier Li Keqiang all have in common? The answer does not relate to hairstyles but infrastructure – all have highlighted enhanced national infrastructure as key to bolstering their economies against the threat of slowing global growth. And they are not alone – the Word Economic Forum estimates the shortfall in global infrastructure investment to be at least $1trn per year. [Continue Reading]
Transport and infrastructure has long been viewed as one of the less glamorous legal practice areas, best suited to lawyers with the patience for ploughing through the minutiae of statutes. But with ever-increasing public and political scrutiny and a rush of private investors looking to park their money in safe assets, it has become one of the most high-profile – and demanding – areas of legal work. [Continue Reading]