Significant matters – Summer 2023

Simmons unveils Next Gen Legal Solutions Index

Simmons & Simmons recently published its first Next Gen Legal Solutions Index, a report based on 500 GCs surveyed ‘to delve into their experience of law firms’.

The report found that a quarter of GCs are discontented with law firm tech, with the proportion rising to 31% of GCs in the healthcare and life sciences sector.

Furthermore, the report shows that 20% of GCs are unhappy with the rate of responsiveness they experience from outside counsel, one of the most important factors when it comes to client satisfaction.

Perhaps surprisingly, only 23% of GCs said that the individual relationships that they build with law firm partners are ‘very important’. However, the responses conveyed that internal counsel are increasingly expecting their external counsel to offer a more diverse spread of skills to assist with intricate business problems, rather than purely legal ones.

Similarly, a third of GCs and an even higher 43% of GCs based in UK-only companies, listed ‘new market entrants’ at the top of their list of short-term challenges. These results show that GC needs are preoccupied with business challenges that ‘law firms need to align with.’

The index also points to the potential for law firms to assist GCs with pulling value from the ever-increasing quantity of data gathered by businesses, which GCs are not currently able to do. However, more than 50% of GCs who responded to the survey said that they think that it will be possible to extract significant information from the contracts in their databases within the next two-and-a-half years.

Pennon unveils new legal services panel

Following a review in May by Pennon Group of its panel of outside legal counsel, it chose Allen & Overy, Burges Salmon and Slaughter and May among those appointed to its new legal services panel.

Pennon owns South West Water, Bristol Water and Bournemouth Water. The review was led by Andrew Garard, Pennon Group’s general counsel and company secretary, as well as Emma Hough, head of legal, and Barry Matthews, deputy general counsel.

Burges Salmon has been advising Pennon as a client for three years. As part of its panel appointment, the firm’s water experts will be able to advise Pennon across a range of legal services, including: renewable energy; infrastructure; health and safety; IT and cyber security; competition law; public law; data protection and privacy; property and construction; environmental regulation; pensions; tax; IP; commercial; corporate; debt and equity markets; and employment.

Legal Benchmarking Survey 2023

The Association of Corporate Counsel and Major, Lindsey & Africa recently published the Legal Benchmarking Survey 2023, which is a report informed by responses from 449 legal departments in organisations ranging across 24 industries in 20 countries, of all company sizes.

One of the key findings of the survey was that data protection has become the highest priority managed by in-house legal teams, overtaking compliance which historically has topped the list. Additionally, the survey revealed that 19% of departments said that compliance is overseen by a separate department that reports to the in-house legal team, with 77% of legal departments reporting that the chief legal officer is responsible for compliance and 70% are responsible for privacy.

According to the survey, companies experienced a bounce back following the pandemic with legal spending on corporate legal services rising from $2.4m to $3.1m in 2022. While this increase in legal spending applied to companies of all proportions, the most significant rise seen was in corporations with over $20bn in revenue, with an average of $80m total spend on legal services up from $50m in 2022.

Regarding internal diversity metrics, the survey found that around three in ten legal departments track their internal diversity composition statistics, with 21% monitoring diversity metrics of their external legal counsel. The survey showed that, although improving diversity, equity, and inclusion statistics has been prioritised more than ever by legal departments, the actual result of this attention has been minimal over the past three years.

Moves that matter

  • Former ITV director of legal and business affairs, Nicola Phillips, was announced as the new chief legal officer of British telecoms company Arqiva. Replacing Katrina Dick, who stepped down from her role at Arqiva in March, Phillips recently worked as UK and EMEA GC at British aerospace company Parker Meggit. Phillips started her legal career working in private practice at Dentons for nearly four years before moving in-house at ITV where she spent 13 years. At Arqiva, Phillips will oversee the running of the legal department, as well as join its executive committee.
  • Kingfisher has appointed a new general counsel from FTSE 100 company Reckitt. Sapna Dutta joins Kingfisher in October after six years at Reckitt, where she is currently SVP and general counsel for the company’s global health business, and for material litigation and investigations on a group-wide basis. She will succeed former group general counsel and GC Powerlist member Elizabeth Messud (pictured), who retired at the end of June.
  • Verily, the subsidiary of Alphabet that specialises in life sciences and healthcare tech, has hired Laura O’Donnell as its new GC. O’Donnell will replace Cynthia Patton, who left in April to join Tessera Therapeutics as GC. Verily’s new GC brings to the company nearly 20 years of compliance and in-house legal expertise, including spending the last four years working as McKesson’s chief compliance officer (CCO). O’Donnell began her career in private practice as an associate at Faegre Baker Daniels in Indiana, where she made partner before leaving in 2005. She moved in-house to work at Zimmer Biomet, an orthopaedic company, as its CCO for four years, before spending the next ten years in various in-house legal positions at GE Healthcare in Wisconsin, including as its officer and vice president chief counsel of global affairs.
  • SirusPoint, the US-based global insurance and reinsurance underwriter, appointed Linda Lin to replace its former chief legal officer & corporate secretary Jimmy Yang in New York. Lin joins SiriusPoint from Coaction Global, where she worked as GC and corporate secretary for two years. Lin will oversee all legal-related issues at the company, as well as sit on its executive committee. Having launched her legal career in private practice as an associate at London Fischer and then Wilkie Farr, Lin moved in-house in 2010, working at Liberty International Underwriters, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance, and QBE North America under several roles.
  • In April, Evan Ferl stepped into the role of GC and chief strategy officer at Bambee, a US HR tech platform in its most recent stage of growth. Prior to his new role, Ferl spent two-and-a-half years as GC and vice president for strategy and corporate development at Poshmark, an online marketplace for secondhand garments. Ferl has worked in a legal capacity at a number of companies, including: Sum Total Systems as corporate counsel; VMware as senior associate corporate counsel; and the GC and vice president of operations at Hired.
  • SIG Sauer, the American gun manufacturer, chose Laurence Grayer as its new GC, executive vice president and chief compliance officer in May. Before SIG Sauer, Grayer was based in Washington DC as the GC, vice president & chief compliance officer at Creative Associates International, where he sat on the executive committee. Grayer brings over two-and-a-half decades’ experience to his new role, which he spent the first three years of working in private practice as an associate at Hack, Piro, O’Day, Merklinger, Wallace & McKenna in New Jersey. During his time, Grayer has taken up numerous GC positions at a number of companies, including DynCorp International in Virginia and Amalgamated Transit Union in Washington DC.
  • Former Clifford Chance private equity partner, Peter Gibbs, has been named as the next GC of London-based private equity firm Permira. Ulrich Casse, who is based in Frankfurt, has been responsible for the company’s legal and business structuring matters as managing director since 2004, until he announced his intention to retire at the end of the year. Gibbs has been employed by Permira since and is currently in the position of managing director and chief fund counsel.
  • Vehicle glass and replacement company Belron acquired Janet McCarthy as its new GC. McCarthy joined the company from British tech enterprise Micro Focus, which was the subject of a takeover completed in January 2023, of which McCarthy sat on the executive team. With over two decades of experience in both private and in-house practice, McCarthy has also worked in Japan, Germany, Australia, and the US. McCarthy also worked as GC at Bupa and the Santa Fe Group.