Significant matters – Summer 2021

New role for Booth at Crown Estate

Rob Booth, one of the leading lights of the in-house legal community, will be stepping away from his position as general counsel and company secretary at The Crown Estate to become the company’s new head of assets.

As part of a leadership reshuffle, former Hogan Lovells chair and experienced adviser to The Crown Estate, Nicholas Cheffings, will assume the role of interim head of legal and company secretary. It brings a five-year stint as GC to an end for Booth, who will now focus on his new role in The Crown Estate’s marine business as it seeks renewable energy generation to support the UK’s net zero commitments.

The future of legal ops

Survey findings recently published by Ashurst in association with OMC Partners has found that 61% of law department leaders have realigned their legal operating model in response to strategic changes made by their companies. The report, Legal Operations – The Shape of Things to Come, compiles the views of law department leaders from across eight core sectors on the range of approaches that they intend to implement over the next 12 to 18 months as they emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The research explored attitudes towards embedding new and often radically different operating models that blend digital technologies, increased stakeholder demands for flexible working, and shifting sentiment in terms of the role offices play in collaboration and innovating. It showed that nearly two thirds (64%) of respondents predict workloads will increase by up to 30%, with regulatory, data protection, employment and ESG-related work driving this demand. Yet, 75% of those surveyed expect no growth in headcount, and more than 40% of respondents also plan to reduce spend by up to a third.

Nokia moves dial on diversity

Nokia’s legal team has unveiled an equity, inclusion and diversity (E, I&D) scorecard system to assess its panel law firms.

As part of the initiative, Nokia will score its panel firms quarterly and annually in order to determine whether they have taken steps to implement effective E, I&D strategies. Eversheds Sutherland, Roschier, Bird & Bird, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, McKool Smith and Alston & Bird were the first to take part.

The criteria used by the telecoms giant to assess its panel firms will cover recruitment policies – including the Mansfield Rule, which sets diversity targets for appointments – as well as equal pay, mentoring and pro bono initiatives; share of work carried out by employees from diverse backgrounds; engagement with diversity and inclusion organisations and the presence of a dedicated E, I&D team.

GCs tackle climate change

Lawyers for Net Zero – a new non-profit organisation working with in-house legal counsel teams – officially launched this summer.

Lawyers for Net Zero has been founded by Adam Woodhall, a sustainability consultant, activist and spokesperson. According to its website, part of its vision is ‘for climate-aware counsel to help their organisations avoid greenwashing and achieve legitimate net-zero’.

It is exclusively focused on in-house counsel and legal teams given their work at the intersections of law, business and climate action, and because beyond their legal work, in-house counsel often play a key role in advising board members on ESG issues.

Paul Watchman, ESG expert, senior UN legal adviser and former Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner, chairs the advisory board, while senior in-house counsel signed up to the initiative include Kirin Kalsi, general counsel, E.ON UK; Anthony Kenny, assistant general counsel corporate, GSK and Mark Maurice-Jones, general counsel, Nestlé UK.

Moves that matter

  • OneWeb, the satellite communications company, has appointed Nadia Hoosen (pictured) as chief legal officer and group company secretary. A dual-qualified solicitor and chartered secretary, Hoosen has two decades of legal and regulatory expertise. Until June, Hoosen was chief legal officer and company secretary at the AA and, before this role, was group general counsel. Most recently, she led on the legal and regulatory aspects of the sale of the AA to Warburg Pincus and TowerBrook. Prior to that, she was group legal director and deputy company secretary at TalkTalk and head of legal at Carphone Warehouse.
  • Isabelle Deschamps will succeed Barbara Levi as chief legal officer at Rio Tinto. Deschamps, who is currently GC of AkzoNobel, will join Rio Tinto in late October. A dual Canadian and UK citizen, she has over 20 years’ experience in various senior legal roles across Europe and Canada. She joined AkzoNobel in 2018 as group general counsel and was a driving force behind its diversity and inclusion programme. Before joining AkzoNobel, Deschamps spent six years at Unilever in the UK and in The Netherlands where she had accountability for legal and compliance for its European businesses and its food & refreshment division worldwide.
  • Social media platform TikTok has named Matt Penarczyk its new head of legal for the Americas. Penarczyk joins TikTok from Microsoft, where he spent more than 18 years and his last role was as vice president and deputy general counsel for compliance and ethics. Penarczyk’s new role sees him reunited with former Microsoft colleague Erich Andersen, who was hired by TikTok at the start of last year as global general counsel and head of corporate affairs.
  • Ofgem has appointed Sinead Murray as general counsel. She joins from the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) where she was a legal director, leading on energy and science. She has extensive legal and governmental experience, including time at HMRC Solicitor’s Office where she was director of personal tax. She has also played an active role as Government Legal Department champion for disability and wellness. Murray takes over from interim general counsel Jonathan Spence, a former Herbert Smith Freehills lawyer who joined Ofgem in 2014.