Significant matters – Spring 2024

BT Group confirms new legal panel

BT Group has finalised its latest legal panel, appointing 11 firms to a roster that will be in place for the next three years. Firms on the panel will be able to bid for all of the telelcoms company’s external legal work over the period.

The roster has been scaled back from 15 firms as part of the latest review in a bid to enable firms to gain a deeper understanding of BT Group and for the organisation to have better alignment across different projects.

The firms appointed are: Addleshaw Goddard, Allen & Overy, BCLP, Bird & Bird, Clifford Chance, CMS, DWF, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Osborne Clarke, Simmons & Simmons and TLT.

These firms were selected based on various criteria including experience, cost, and ability to contribute to the development of BT Group’s in-house legal talent. An essential consideration was the demonstration of inclusion, equity, and diversity in their practices, with Addleshaw Goddard securing an early spot on the panel due to its achievements in this space.

Additionally, BT Group has announced that the firm demonstrating the most significant efficiencies through AI and other technologies over the next three years will secure an automatic place on the subsequent panel (2027-30).

Sabine Chalmers (pictured), BT Group’s general counsel, director of regulatory affairs, and company secretary emphasised the rigorous selection process and the firms’ demonstration of best-in-class capabilities across diverse fields.

In addition to the core panel, BT Group revealed six additional law firms eligible to bid for specific categories of legal work going forward: Cleaver Fulton Rankin, Covington & Burling, DACB, Shepherd and Wedderburn, Trowers & Hamlins, and Winckworth Sherwood.

2024 ACC Chief Legal Officers Survey

The 2024 ACC Chief Legal Officers Survey has been released, offering insight into the evolving role of chief legal officers (CLOs) and how legal departments worldwide are adapting to the changing business environment. The report draws on responses from 669 CLOs representing various sectors across 31 countries.

The survey found financial constraints are viewed as a significant concern, with nearly half of CLOs facing cost-cutting mandates and 58% grappling with law firm rate hikes, posing challenges for 23% of respondents. Regulatory worries are the biggest concern, with 53% of respondents putting it top of their list of worries. Other concerns for in-house leaders include talent retention (42%), followed closely by concerns about privacy and data security (41%) and cybersecurity threats (37%).

Given the concerns around data security 34% of respondents are prioritising data breach mitigation efforts. At present, only 9% say they are ‘very confident’ in their organisation’s ability to address emerging data risks. Improving operational efficiency is a key priority for 40% of CLOs, with two-thirds expecting to see a positive impact from AI adoption.

Significantly, CLOs are feeling more over-burdened by workloads, meaning that some feel their work-life balance is now under pressure. Some 59% of CLOs said that their workloads had increased, with only 20% of of those seeing significant spikes in their work levels now happy with their work-life balance. Across all respondents more than half say they are happy with work/life balance.

CLOs are actively seeking to enhance their teams’ skills, particularly in business acumen and communication and are also keen to get more involved in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) efforts. While 77% are involved in their organisation’s ESG strategy, only 29% report being ‘very involved,’ indicating room for improvement in ESG integration.

SRA issues new in-house guidance on professional obligations

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has released new guidance on the professional obligations of all solicitors, including those working in-house. The guidance highlights the importance of upholding professional standards to uphold public trust in the legal profession and ensure the fair administration of justice.

It emphasises the delicate balance between commercial interests and ethical responsibilities, underscoring the need for solicitors to maintain independence and transparency in decision-making. Employers should understand the expectations placed on in-house solicitors, including their requirement to provide independent and impartial advice, maintain competence, and supervise work effectively.

However, employers should not expect in-house solicitors to condone dishonest or illegal actions, compromise their independence, mislead the court, act dishonestly, breach confidentiality, or exceed their competence. Instead, employers should support in-house solicitors in meeting regulatory obligations by providing necessary systems, processes, and support.

By promoting transparency and ethical behaviour, the guidance suggests organisations can strengthen governance frameworks, enhance risk management practices, and uphold the reputation of the legal profession.

Moves that matter

  • Aniela Foster-Turner, who has more than two decades of international legal and compliance experience, has joined energy tech company ENODA as its new general counsel. Formerly the principal legal counsel at Siemens for over 11 years, her experience includes high-profile transactions within the renewable energy sector. Based between Edinburgh and London, she now leads ENODA’s legal team, overseeing all internal legal matters.
  • Hope Jarkowski, former general counsel at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), has been named the chief legal officer of Broadridge Financial Solutions. In her new role at Broadridge, Jarkowski will oversee legal, compliance, regulatory, and government affairs functions, assuming the role of primary legal adviser to senior management. Additionally, she will lead internal policy initiatives and take on roles within the company’s foundation board, risk committee, and environmental, social, and governance committee.
  • Chicago Bears have named Krista Whitaker as their new chief legal officer, taking over from Cliff Stein, who left the franchise in January. Whitaker joins from the Miami Heat NBA team, where she held the position of associate general counsel. Prior to her time with the Miami Heat, she worked as a corporate associate at Proskauer Rose for five years. In her new capacity, Whitaker will offer legal counsel and assistance across a range of areas, including strategic guidance, daily operations, and negotiations related to sponsorship and media rights.
  • Anne Robinson has been named the new chief legal officer at IBM, with her tenure set to commence on 1 July Robinson, transitioning from her current role as general counsel and corporate secretary at Vanguard, will take over from Michelle Browdy, who is stepping down as general counsel and senior vice president of legal and regulatory affairs. In her new position, Robinson will oversee all legal, regulatory, and compliance concerns, in addition
    to addressing other strategic matters within IBM.
  • Garmin has named Josh Maxfield as its new vice president, general counsel, succeeding Andrew Etkind, who has held the GC position for over 25 years. Maxfield, who has been part of the Garmin team since 2006 and currently serves as associate general counsel and assistant secretary, will assume his new role as general counsel and vice president in July. Stationed at Garmin’s US headquarters in Kansas, Maxfield will take charge of various legal facets, including intellectual property, litigation, compliance, contract negotiation, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate governance.
  • Adrian Morris is set to join Haleon, the consumer healthcare business, as general counsel, after an 11-year tenure at Tesco. He will maintain his leadership role at Tesco during the interim period while a replacement is sought. Prior to Tesco, Morris held notable positions at BP, British Gas, Centrica Europe, and BBA Group, with his legal career commencing in private practice at Addleshaw Goddard.
  • Thunderbird Entertainment, a Canadian media and production company, has promoted Lori Massini to the position of general counsel, succeeding Sarah Nathanson. Massini has been serving as senior vice president of legal and business affairs within the company. In her new capacity, she will provide legal and compliance support across all business units while continuing to oversee the legal and business affairs team.