Significant matters – Spring 2023

In-house course helps career-break lawyers re-enter profession

The Centre for Legal Leadership and Reignite Academy joined forces to run a one-day course for ‘career break’ lawyers seeking to re-enter the legal profession in an in-house role.

The course took place on 2 May in RPC’s office in London, and covered five different modules: the myths and expectations versus the reality of being an in-house lawyer; what it means to be commercial business partner; the breadths of topics an in-house lawyer has in their remit; the fundamentals of any commercial contract and how to make it work in practice.

The speakers at the event included Elaine Hutton, who moved from Clifford Chance to become GC at Channel 4 Television, Apple and most recently NTT Group’s cyber security division, and Luscinia Brown-Hovelt, who began her career as a corporate lawyer at Hogan Lovells before moving over to legal counsel in the retail and hospitality sector.

RPC’s head of commercial Jeremy Drew (pictured) said: ‘Moving in-house often requires a shift from being a specialist to a generalist – which can be daunting without the right support.

‘Attendees will benefit from learning from those who have made the transition and lawyers who for decades have worked with in-house lawyers in various sectors, at varying levels of seniority. This exposure, the workshops and time for one-on-one discussion will furnish attendees the insight and tools to move in-house, if that’s what’s right for them.’

One example is lawyer Vanessa Pringle, who began her career at Addleshaw Goddard where she spent over a decade but now serves in an in-house role at real estate investment company A.S.K partners.

Pringle said: ‘Lawyers, like everyone in the business, are encouraged and expected to think like entrepreneurial business owners which means the trajectory for your career is open, non-linear, and adaptive.’

Co-founder of the Reignite Academy, Lisa Unwin said: ‘The value of spending time with people who have walked a similar path to that you’re thinking of taking, is immeasurable. Post-event we expect attendees to have formed valuable connections which will see them not only make the right decision for their situation, but to be highly successful in making the transition.’

GCs ‘extremely concerned’ after SRA’s latest review of in-house sector

GCs are troubled by the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority’s lastest review of the in-house legal community, saying the regulator has understated the severity of risks faced by in-house lawyers.

The SRA surveyed more than 1,200 in-house lawyers to better understand their legal roles, focusing on how they support an ethical culture in their organisations, the challenges they face in meeting their professional obligations and how the regulator can help support them.

Former Lawtech UK director Jenifer Swallow shared a response to the review on LinkedIn, which at the time of going to press had been signed by more than 30 GCs, including Maaike de Bie, GC Powerlist regular and group GC of Vodafone group and Elizabeth Dyce, group GC at insuretech company Innovation Group Global.

While the GC response to SRA’s In-house Solicitors Thematic Review praises its focus on the in-house legal profession, the letter said the review understated the severity of the risks in an in-house environment and has produced inadequate conclusions.

‘It does not reflect the collective experience in-house or what was communicated by and to a number of us during the review, and it offers insufficient action and support in addressing concerns in the interests of stakeholders and society. The data gathered is useful, but the review’s conclusions are not supported by that data,’ the response said.

The GCs explicitly stated that they cannot agree with chief executive of the SRA Paul Philip on three main points: that the review findings are encouraging; regulatory risks identified in the in-house community are a minority issue; and that the risks relating to workloads and lack of training lead to poor decision making.

They urged the SRA to re-evaluate the tone and conclusions of the review urgently.

Swallow summarised several recommendations that GCs have proposed to the SRA, for example, instituting standards for in-house lawyer employment contracts; regulator outreach to employer-client boards; and detailed guidance materials and training for in-house lawyers on professional conflict.

They said the aim of the recommendations is to increase regulatory support for in-house lawyers without the only choice being to resign or reluctantly comply with professional and regulatory obligations.

A spokesperson for the SRA said: ‘We welcome all feedback on our thematic review. One of the key purposes of the report is to raise awareness of issues within the in-house sector, while highlighting both good practice and areas of concern. This report is very much a first step in our development of a range of bespoke resources to support the in-house community. We will continue to work with the in-house profession to help shape this.’

Five new firms appointed to Co-Op Bank panel

Five new firms have been appointed to provide legal services on The Co-Operative Bank’s second legal panel, following a formal review which began halfway through last year.

The legal panel will also comprise five reappointed firms, making up a team of 10 which will be in place until December 2025.

Addleshaw Goddard, Gateley, Hill Dickinson, Shoosmiths, and White & Case are the five new firms, while Clifford Chance, DLA Piper, Eversheds Sutherland, Hogan Lovells, and TLT have been selected to the panel for a second time.

However, six law firms from the 2015 panel have not made the cut this time, including Pinsent Masons, Allen & Overy and Mishcon de Reya. Other firms also not making a reappearance include Bates Wells, Matthew Arnold & Baldwin and Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner.

The Manchester-headquartered bank provides a wide range of services to approximately 2.7 million customers and 94,000 small and medium-sized businesses.

Commercial partner Luke Stubbs at Shoosmiths will lead his team, alongside banking and finance partner Liz Sweeney and restructuring partner Sarah Teal.

Stubbs said: ‘We submitted details of our expertise and capability and were delighted to be appointed by the bank along with a number of other leading firms.

‘Our aim is to help the bank deliver its long-term objectives and commitment to ethical, environmental and community matters – a shared vision that shapes our legal approach.’

Restructuring partner Tim Taylor will lead the Addleshaw team, supported by co-heads of the firm’s financial services sector Rosanna Bryant and Hugh Lauritsen.

Taylor said: ‘ Our team looks forward to bringing our technical expertise and sector experience to helping the bank deliver on its objectives and ambitions over the coming years.’

Moves that matter

  • Shell has announced the promotion of its current general counsel Philippa Bounds to legal director from June. Bounds has been at Shell for almost two decades and will replace Donny Ching, who has spent more than 33 years with Shell but is now stepping down from this role after nine years. Prior to joining Shell’s in-house legal team in 2005, Bounds was an associate at Shearman & Sterling for seven years following a two-year stint at Simmons & Simmons.
  • Switzerland-based luxury goods company Richemont has hired Thomas Loest from The Kraft Heinz Company as its global general counsel. Loest has held several in-house legal roles both London and elsewhere in Europe, including managing director and senior director at Nike and chief counsel for EMEA at US multinational personal care corporation Kimberly-Clark. He began his career in private practice at Hogan Lovells and Gleiss Lutz in Brussels.
  • M&G has announced that GC Powerlist alumnus Charlotte Heiss will join as its new general counsel and company secretary in June. She is currently group general counsel and company secretary at The Very Group and will bring more than two decades of legal and governance experience to M&G. Prior to that she spent 11 years at RSA Insurance Group as group general counsel and company secretary. She started her career as a managing associate at Linklaters.
  • Soft drinks manufacturer Suntory Beverage & Food has appointed Ewa Chappell as general counsel, where she will replace Mary Guest who has been promoted to deputy legal director. Chappell joins from premium drinks provider Diageo where she has spent seven years in several legal counsel-related roles. She joined the role in 2016 after a five-year run at Addleshaw Goddard where she trained as a solicitor.
  • After 16 years as general counsel and chief corporate officer at Balfour Beatty, Chris Vaughan has moved over to Whitbread. He will serve as the new general counsel company secretary, replacing Simon Barratt who is retiring after 18 years. Vaughan has held senior legal positions at SABMiller and InterContinental Hotels Group (formerly known as Six Continents) and qualified as a solicitor at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
  • Family-run shipping business James Fisher and Sons has appointed Jean-François Bauer as group general counsel. Bauer spent almost 30 years at US technology company Schlumberger, starting as an attorney in Paris before receiving several promotions, including his most recent post as general counsel of commercial and contracts in London. In 2021, he had a brief two-year stint away from Schlumberger, where he was executive director of his own company JFJC Consulting and interim group general counsel of oil and gas company KCA Deutag.