Profile: Oscar Grut, The Economist Group

The iconic business title’s GC on the company’s sale, the pleasures of generalism and stepping way outside his comfort zone.

Profile |

It was third time lucky when IHL finally managed to catch up with The Economist Newspaper’s general counsel and company secretary, Oscar Grut. The GC offered a stream of apologies on IHL’s arrival at his Canary Wharf office, explaining that he had been busy selling off the company’s London headquarters in St James’s.

The sale of the property was part of the biggest deal Grut has worked on since he was appointed as the company’s assistant legal counsel 18 years ago. The London headquarters, which is being sold to gain funds for a buy-back of The Economist’s shares following its divestment from Pearson, is a high-stakes move for The Economist. Grut says the company expects to make a profit of around £110m on the sale. [Continue Reading]

Profile: Richard Vary, Nokia

Nokia’s globe-trotting litigation head on running disputes at the sharp end and the thrill of the next case.

Profile |

When asked what keeps him in-house, Nokia’s Richard Vary touts two key selling points of the job: travel and adrenaline. His role as head of litigation has placed him in some interesting scenarios over his ten years working for the multinational communications and IT company. ‘It was my birthday last year when I arrived at work and then discovered we had a hearing in India the next day,’ Vary told The In-House Lawyer. [Continue Reading]

Profile: Bjarne Tellmann, Pearson

The plain-speaking Pearson law chief on driving change and pulling up your role models.

Profile |

Last month, Pearson’s high-profile senior vice president and general counsel Bjarne Tellmann was attending an executive leadership course at Harvard Law School when he bumped into Ben Heineman, General Electric Company (GE)’s former veteran legal head who is lauded by many for inventing the playbook for the sophisticated, globe-trotting GC.

Tellmann grabbed the opportunity to have dinner with America’s most celebrated in-house counsel (appropriately in the local arm of Legal Sea Foods, slogan: ‘If it isn’t fresh, it isn’t Legal’). But the plain-speaking GC is not one for merely buttering up his role models. [Continue Reading]

Lost in translation

As the SRA prepares to overhaul its handbook, we ask whether its new focus on in-house will be enough to help tackle the ethical dilemmas general counsel face.

Regulation |

‘There’s a serious danger of a regulator trying to regulate something that it doesn’t understand,’ says Kingfisher group general counsel and company secretary Clare Wardle. Her comment comes as the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) works on another overhaul of its handbook, halfway through a two-year review that will end in 2017, a process that has clear plans to be more inclusive of the in-house profession.

When asked what in-house lawyers would make of its current handbook and code of conduct, SRA chief executive Paul Philip concedes: ‘They would probably say quite a lot of the regulations that we put out are not directly applicable to them and they need clarity. That’s what we’re trying to provide.’ [Continue Reading]

Who do you think you are?

Cranfield’s Paul Hughes argues that your mindset defines what kind of lawyer you are.

Leadership |

I’ve been advocating for some time that the ‘Trusted Adviser’ description of in-house counsel and GCs has the potential to encourage too much detachment between those lawyers and the organisations that employ them. While there must be some level of professional detachment, I encourage proactivity, dubbing this approach the ‘Ethical Champion’ − a style more akin to an investigating magistrate than a member of the judiciary. My research at Cranfield has found that counsel who are proactive and investigative are more likely to end up in positions where they can maintain an ethical stance. [Continue Reading]

Author(s)

A new vision for general counsel

In the closing address of the 2016 Enterprise GC summit, GE veteran Ben Heineman laid out his vision for the general counsel as lawyer statesman and charted the revolution remaking global law.

Leadership |

I want to give you an overview of my theory about the inside counsel revolution. It is clear it has happened in the US. It is happening to a degree in Europe and in Asia. General counsel have become much more sophisticated, capable and influential, transforming law and business in two ways. Inside the company, the GC has become the primary counsellor to the chief executive and board, replacing the law firm senior partner. He or she leads corporate units beyond the law.

The role has become comparable in importance to the chief financial officer (CFO) due to the increased global complexity and the rising importance of ‘business in society’ issues. There has been a dramatic change in the skill, the experience, the breadth and the compensation of the GC. [Continue Reading]

Author(s)

  • Ben Heineman, Former general counsel of GE, The In-House Lawyer

    Former general counsel of GE

The big uneasy

The biggest issue facing business for a generation looms on 23 June with the Brexit vote. We assembled a group of GCs to find out how they are managing the unmanageable.

The Brexit debate |

It is the business issue that has dominated headlines for months and represents for UK plc a potentially far more profound impact than any general election or change of government. The vote on 23 June on the UK’s membership of the EU promises ominous levels of uncertainty for business and unprecedented challenges for general counsel (GCs) trying to help their companies manage systemic risks. In the second part of a collaboration withHerbert Smith Freehills (HSF), we gathered a group of senior in-house counsel to assess what legal teams should be doing now… and potentially on 24 June. [Continue Reading]

Change partners

Microsoft deputy GC Mary Snapp and Covington & Burling’s London head of technology Lisa Peet discuss tackling diversity, apart and together.

Diversity |

IHL: What initiatives has Microsoft and its legal department pioneered to promote ethnic diversity?

Mary Snapp: Microsoft’s legal department has had a focused diversity team for 12 years. Brad Smith [Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer] and I collaborated to start the diversity team within the department, which grew to include 85 people. Our original focus on women and racial and ethnic minorities has been sustained, but we have added other areas of diversity and inclusion focus over time, such as people with disabilities and US military veterans. [Continue Reading]

None so zealous

In-house counsel are increasingly united on the benefits of mentoring programmes. Is there substance behind the corporate fad?

Talent management |

‘I believe very strongly in leading by example,’ says Nokia global head of litigation Richard Vary. Although his legal team has a formal mentoring system in place, Vary maintains that it is the informal connections inherent in mentoring that play the most important role in developing in-house counsel. ‘You bring the people along, they see what you do, they see how you work rather than [you] telling people how to do their jobs. They’re professionals, they know what they’re doing. They’re intelligent – you give them the space to figure it out for themselves but also give them an example of the model of behaviours that you want.’ [Continue Reading]

Crude measures

A perfect storm of low oil prices and cost pressure is keeping in-house teams in the energy sector more honest than most in 2016.

Energy and natural resources overview |

Taken in isolation – and at £35bn, one of the largest oil and gas deals on record stands pretty well on its own – the acquisition of BG Group by Shell could be seen as a bellwether for a confident oil and gas market. But headline deals aside, the freefall in oil prices has had a lasting negative effect on the sector. And while the price of crude passed the psychologically important level of $50 per barrel recently, the attritional effect of the last 18 months is there to see. [Continue Reading]