Significant matters – Winter 2020

National Grid drops three from panel

BDB Pitmans, Irwin Mitchell and Norton Rose Fulbright have been dropped from National Grid’s panel, understood to be worth about £12m a year in the UK. Womble Bond Dickinson is the sole new appointee on a roster that reduced the number of advisers from 12 to ten. Addleshaw Goddard, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang, Dentons, DLA Piper, Eversheds Sutherland, Herbert Smith Freehills, Linklaters and Shakespeare Martineau have retained their spots.

National Grid group GC Alison Kay said more than 60 legal service providers tendered for the review, which began in May. The panel features full-service and specialist advice firms, covering regulated and non-regulated property and planning, corporate services, as well as gas and electricity legal work. The new contract begins on 1 February 2020 for three years, with an option to extend for a further two years.

Clients lag on Mindful Business Charter

Barclays’ Mindful Business Charter has added another 17 organisations to its workplace wellbeing initiative, with just five in the latest round being in-house legal teams.

Network Rail, Coventry Building Society, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, Nationwide Building Society and Coats Group have pledged support alongside a further 12 law firms: Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, Burness Paull, DAC Beachcroft, Dentons, Holman Fenwick Willan, Irwin Mitchell, Morton Fraser, Paul Hastings, Radiant Law, RPC, Squire Patton Boggs and TLT.

The total number of signatories now sits at 38, with in-house legal departments making up less than a quarter of the charter, which was devised by Barclays alongside Pinsent Masons and Addleshaw Goddard.

Pinsents diversity and inclusion consultant Kate Dodd said: ‘It is going really well and it’s amazing how far we have come, but until more businesses come on board [the initiative] does not really work and we are clapping with one hand.’

Lombard invites tenders for debut panel

Investment group Lombard International is creating its first-ever legal adviser panel under GC Monica Risam (pictured), the former Aviva UK Life legal head.

The panel looks set to cement relationships the Luxembourg-based company has with firms such as Allen & Overy, Baker McKenzie, DLA Piper and Linklaters. Eleven firms have been invited to tender for the global advisory panel, also including Latham & Watkins, Hogan Lovells, Eversheds Sutherland, Norton Rose Fulbright, Sidley Austin, CMS and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.

The panel, which has been divided into two – international and domestic – will run for three years, and firms will need to demonstrate their commitment to innovation and diversity.

Luminance creates new advisory board

UK legal tech company Luminance has established a new advisory board aimed at accelerating AI adoption by BigLaw, with Slaughter and May senior partner Steve Cooke and Vodafone GC Rosemary Martin (pictured) in the heavyweight line-up.

Cooke and Martin will sit alongside Italian law firm Portolano Cavallo founding partner Manuela Cavallo and former chairman of the International Bar Association Technology Committee, Vagn Thorup.

Plans are also in place to set up an equivalent board in the US, where Luminance has been ramping up its presence following a $10m investment round earlier this year. The company also aims to create a board in the APAC region.

SSE reviews panel for first time

Big Six energy company SSE is reviewing its legal roster for the first time since introducing one under the directorship of legal head Liz Tanner (pictured) in 2014.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Addleshaw Goddard, CMS, Osborne Clarke, Gillespie Macandrew, Thorntons Law and Kennedys were appointed to the inaugural panel six years ago.

Tanner runs a legal team of 75 and the review is expected to complete by early 2020. Prior to 2014, the company worked informally with 30 external advisers for legal support.

In 2017, the legal team was heavily involved in SSE selling a 50% stake in its telecoms business to Infracapital for £380m.

Lloyds banks on reshaped roster

CMS has dropped off Lloyds Banking Group’s core panel of advisers after a review that reshaped the roster into two lots. A total of 25 firms have been appointed, split between a smaller number of core firms and a group of general firms. It was the bank’s first panel review since 2016, when DLA Piper and Norton Rose Fulbright lost their spots as the core panel shrunk from ten to eight firms.

A Lloyds spokesperson said: ‘Following a rigorous and competitive tender process, we have finalised the structure and composition of the Lloyds Banking Group panel. The structure has been simplified and now consists of a group of core firms and a group of general firms. The panel has a strong commitment to our mission statement setting out expectations around quality, value and cultural alignment.’

The bank would not confirm which firms had been appointed to the 2019 panel, but CMS has dropped from being a core adviser to general. Addleshaw Goddard, Allen & Overy, Ashurst, Eversheds Sutherland, Herbert Smith Freehills, Hogan Lovells and Linklaters all retained core adviser status. Each firm declined to comment.

Moves that matter

  • BAE Systems’ longstanding legal chief for air, Julie Smyth (pictured), has moved to rival GKN Aerospace as GC. Smyth leaves BAE’s air business after seven years, to head up legal, risk, compliance and governance across GKN’s global aerospace business. She joined BAE in 1998 – when it was British Aerospace – with the air business accounting for about half of the defence multinational’s £18bn turnover. BAE named Stuart Urquhart as Smyth’s successor, an internal appointment.
  • Lloyds Banking Group has lost its head of legal operations, Sophie Schwass, to Magic Circle firm Clifford Chance (CC) where she will be regional chief operating officer for the UK. Schwass was with Lloyds for nearly three years and was previously director for chief of staff for legal at Barclays. At CC she is tasked with developing an operational strategy for the firm.
  • Headed in the other direction, however, is Phoenix Group’s former legal director, Phil Hagan, who Lloyds has appointed interim head of legal for corporate and M&A. Hagan had led the FTSE 100 insurance company’s legal team for more than a decade.
  • Jonathan Lagan has quit his role as GC of UK infrastructure group Balfour Beatty in the summer, less than six months after taking up the post after joining from Tesco. Lagan’s predecessor, David Mercer, is standing as interim GC while the company finds a replacement. Mercer retired earlier in the year after eight years at the company, ahead of Lagan’s appointment in January 2019. A Balfour spokesperson said Lagan’s short-lived departure was a ‘routine management change’.
  • WorldRemit has recruited former Funding Circle global head of legal and regulatory, Martin Cook, as GC. Cook had joined Funding Circle in 2015 from payday loan provider Wonga and was previously a senior legal adviser at Royal Mail. He replaces Sam Ross, who left WorldRemit in May to take on a GC role at regtech company ComplyAdvantage.
  • Litigation funder Augusta Ventures has appointed Frances Coats as GC. Coats, named Rising Star In-House Counsel of the Year at the 2019 Legal Business Awards, joins from The Ardonagh Group, where she was chief corporate counsel and spent more than five years.