Significant matters – Winter 2021

BT to invest £2.7m into NI legal support hub

Telecoms giant BT announced in December it is poised to commit £2.7m in investment to create a new legal support hub in Belfast that will house 30 commercial lawyer positions over the next four years.

The standalone centre will be the first of its kind for BT in Northern Ireland, with its lawyers being used to provide legal support to colleagues across the wider BT Group. Seven of the 30 commercial lawyer positions are already in place.

Invest NI – the regional economic development agency for Northern Ireland – provided BT with advice on setting up the outpost. Invest NI believes the hub will contribute up to £1.4m in additional annual salaries to the region’s economy. BT Group currently directly employs 2,650 people in Northern Ireland, with a further 579 offered as contractors.

Coca-Cola threatens 30% fee reduction for missed diversity targets

Coca-Cola has unveiled a series of diversity targets for its US advisers and has warned that compliance will be a major factor in selecting its first-ever panel of law firms in 18 months’ time.

In addition, firms that fail to meet targets for new matters – which include that 30% of each of billed associate and partner time will be from diverse attorneys, half of whom are black attorneys – over two quarters will be levied a non-refundable 30% reduction in their fees from then on until they achieve compliance.

The soft drinks giant’s revised guidelines for its US advisers were issued by its general counsel, Bradley Gayton, in a letter dated 28 January, along with a pledge to roll them out globally in due course, stating that the pace of change was too slow as the profession is ‘too quick to celebrate stagnant progress and reward intention’.

The letter continued: ‘As a function, we believe that pursuing diversity is not only the right thing to do, but it’s a business imperative to do so quickly. We know firsthand that a diversity of thought, perspective and experience is critical to drive the best work and outcomes for our company.’

Government unveils post-Brexit trade panel

The UK government finalised its post-Brexit trade law panel, with more than 20 international and domestic law firms selected to advise on future deals and disputes.

Following an extensive bidding process, the new panel will comprise legal advisers in two lots. The first lot will cover international trade disputes, including arbitration, and the second lot will cover free trade agreement negotiations and other non-contentious international trade advice.

Now an independent WTO member and responsible for its own litigation before the WTO dispute settlement body, the trade law panel (TLP) will play an important role in advising the government on trade matters.

International firms on the panel include Baker McKenzie, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, Dentons, Linklaters (along with Canadian firm Bennett Jones), Sidley Austin and Van Bael & Bellis. Others include consortia, such as Burges Salmon with US firm Arent Fox and TLT alongside McDermott Will & Emery and Canada’s Borden Ladner Gervais.

All change at Centrica and National Grid following reshuffle

Electricity pylons silhouetted against a dramatic sunsetJustine Campbell, the former general counsel and company secretary of Centrica, began her new role as group GC and company secretary at National Grid, replacing Alison Kay, at the start of the year. In an internal reshuffle, Kay has taken on the new role of interim chief strategy and external affairs officer at the energy supply company.

Campbell, who was shortlisted for GC of the Year at the 2020 Legal Business Awards and replaced veteran Centrica GC Grant Dawson in 2019, resigned from the company last summer and was announced as the replacement to Kay, who joined National Grid in 1996, in August.

Prior to joining Centrica in 2016, Campbell was previously general counsel and external affairs director at Vodafone UK and European general counsel of Telefónica (O2).

Meanwhile at Centrica, Campbell’s former colleague Raj Roy was appointed interim GC and company secretary last autumn. Roy joined Centrica in 2014 as the legal director for residential energy, before becoming general counsel for the UK and Ireland in 2017. Prior to joining Centrica, he spent nine years at Vodafone, in a number of senior legal roles and started his career in private practice, qualifying as a solicitor at Slaughter and May in London.

Moves that matter

  • Slaughter and May has made a rare City hire into its disputes and investigations practice from in-house. Gayathri Kamalanathan is currently head of group litigation and enforcement at Danske Bank in Copenhagen, having been at the bank for two years, but is now set to join Slaughters in April. Prior to joining Dankse Bank, Kamalanathan had an eight-year spell at Deutsche Bank where she served as UK head of litigation and enforcement.
  • Burges Salmon, meanwhile, has made a lucrative in-house hire, appointing Martin Cook (pictured) the former general counsel and company secretary of payments at WorldRemit, as the firm’s head of fintech. Cook has also held in-house roles at Funding Circle, Wonga Group and Royal Mail.
  • LB100 firm Hill Dickinson has bolstered its Asia practice with the hire of construction specialist Richard Lyons in Hong Kong. He joins from Arabtec Construction in Dubai, one of the largest infrastructure contractors in the Middle East, where he was head of legal from 2018. He is an experienced construction lawyer whose expertise also benefits from a previous career in industry, as an engineer with a number of large companies including Sir Robert McAlpine and Taylor Woodrow in the UK and the Mass Transit Railway Corporation in Hong Kong.
  • Swati Paul, currently general counsel and company secretary for London Luton Airport, is to join Skanska UK in April to head up its legal team. She will join as executive vice president and a member of its executive management team, reporting to president and CEO, Gregor Craig. Paul has been at Luton Airport since 2015, establishing the legal function at the airport and integrating it across the business.
  • Renault has hired Quitterie de Pelleport as its new group general counsel and senior vice president, replacing the French car manufacturer’s former legal chief Jean-Benoit Devauges. De Pelleport, listed in the GC Powerlist: Benelux while in her previous role as group general counsel and head of legal and compliance at Solvay, began her new role on 1 February.