Moving the dial – celebrating the best in-house talent

If the last two years has taught the industry anything, it’s that having innovative, enquiring minds leading in-house teams has never been more important in helping businesses solve their myriad problems brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

With that in mind, this edition of The In-House Lawyer brings you profiles of two young counsel who have really made a difference to the running of their businesses – so much so that they wowed the judges enough to take home trophies at the Legal Business Awards 2021. Sarah Holford, Scania’s legal chief, accepted the award for Most Transformative In-House Team of the Year, while Chris Thomas, Brewin Dolphin’s senior legal director, was named Rising Star In-House Counsel of the Year. Speaking with them, it soon becomes clear why they are held in such high regard within their organisations and with clients alike.

For her part, Holford’s proactivity is positively infectious. Her many achievements include launching an innovative new matter tracking system, lauded internally as having transformed Scania’s in-house function, especially since remote working was enforced during lockdown. Perhaps more importantly, she is credited with overhauling the team’s culture to make lawyers more commercial and approachable, as well as starting a corporate social responsibility committee at Scania to increase awareness of social sustainability and deliver on charity objectives.

Richard Gray, Scania’s finance director, praised Holford’s impact: ‘Sarah has been head of legal for two years and has transformed the impact and credibility of this function. Whilst Sarah has delivered benefits to the organisation through the creation of a capable team that has capacity to grow and develop, she has also embraced technology which has transformed the way the legal team support the business in all legal matters.’

Meanwhile, Thomas is admired for going above and beyond his remit at Brewin Dolphin to take on management responsibility for colleagues delivering M&A, financial and other regulatory projects, litigation, and paralegal support while supporting delivery of the group legal strategy.

He has launched and delivered reviews of many existing practices, training programmes and multi-disciplinary projects, which have proven invaluable in improving the efficiency and professionalism of people-related practices, including creating a suite of bespoke HR systems. Thomas has also delivered monthly pro bono advice to low-income clients for more than a decade, was one of 13 winners of a 2020 Brewin Dolphin People’s Award from a pool of 2,000 and has been selected to join the 2021 Executive Leadership Programme for senior managers.

Charlie Perry, head of Brewin Dolphin’s London office, hailed Thomas’ influence: ‘I find Chris fantastically helpful in every dialogue and situation. He is considered, professional, informative, helpful and empathetic. He always offers a firm opinion which encourages confidence in Chris and the legal team. He recognises the stress that legal situations can place on laymen such as me and he takes the burden and pressure off with his wise counsel.’

I hope you enjoy reading more about their remarkable achievements.

The Legal Business Awards 2022 are now open ( and we would love to see more nominations of equally inspirational in-house counsel by Friday 18 March.