In-house legal teams can claim excellence in many respects, and should take advantage of legal awards events to showcase their abilities, as did the Scottish Legal Awards 2013 joint winners

The Scott + Co Scottish Legal Awards is an annual event which celebrates excellence within the Scottish legal profession and gives lawyers, legal firms and teams across the country an opportunity to participate in this always popular event.

This year’s new category, In-house Legal Team of the Year award, was sponsored by the Law Society of Scotland. The Society’s President, Austin Lafferty, who hosted a table at the awards, said: “The Society wants to celebrate not only the valuable contribution that the legal sector makes to Scotland’s economy but the overall contribution solicitors make to their clients, their communities and civic Scotland as a whole. We were delighted to sponsor the In-house Legal Team of the Year Award and will continue to sponsor awards that highlight talent and excellence within the legal profession.”

The submission deadline was at the end of November 2012, and in December the judging panel, chaired by Margo MacDonald MSP, met to shortlist the many submissions received. These were assessed according to several criteria including content, relevance, and presentation. The judges were experts from business, law and politics, and included Lorna Jack, chief executive of the Society, and Janet Hood, a member of the Society’s Council and former chair of the In-house Lawyers Group.

Joy McLaughlin, partner of Scott + Co, the headline sponsor of the Scottish Legal Awards, commented: “We probably found judging a bit tougher this year and some firms narrowly missed out on a position in the finals. However, the standard has been set very high with some excellent, full and persuasive submissions which detailed some exemplary work.”

In January, the award finalists were announced, with Scottish Water and Standard Life being the finalists for the Law Society of Scotland In-house Legal Team of the Year.

Claims to recognition

The Scottish Water legal team consists of eight lawyers and two support staff. Its submission highlighted how the role of the team had recently increased beyond serving Scottish Water’s water and sewerage business, to include advice on renewable and waste projects in Scotland, and water related projects in a variety of countries including Poland, Canada, New Zealand and Qatar.

A key element of the submission was case studies on supporting internal customers and Scottish businesses, along with testimonials from external agents where specialised input from the legal team had assisted them in achieving results for their clients.

The Standard Life Group legal team in the UK consists of approximately 40 qualified lawyers and 30 support staff. The Group legal team submission highlighted key activities in 2012, other awards and shortlistings achieved, and the considerable work carried out on major industry and business related projects, such as the Retail Distribution Review, Pensions Reform, and Solvency 2. In addition, the unique Group Legal approach to ongoing talent engagement and development and the management of external legal service providers was explained, as was the Group Legal take on innovation and technology. A key element of the submission consisted of case studies of major business deals and court actions, which showed how Group Legal had made its mark on the success of the Standard Life business as a whole, and included testimonials from internal business areas and external counsel.

The final awards ceremony was held at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on 28 March. At the ceremony, Dougie Vipond, one of the presenters, explained that the judges had found it difficult to decide between the two finalists for the In-house Legal Team of the Year, so Scottish Water was given the Public Sector award, while Standard Life was awarded the Private Sector award.

Key contribution

Tom Axford, corporate secretary and Head of Legal, commenting on behalf of Scottish Water’s legal team said: “Our submission was a real team effort with the whole team contributing. I was delighted we were shortlisted and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the awards ceremony. Winning the award has raised the profile of the team across the business and provided recognition for a dedicated team working to deliver Scottish Water’s objectives across Scotland.”

Malcolm Wood, Group Company Secretary and General Counsel, commenting on behalf of the Standard Life Group legal team said: “Our Group legal team thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of meeting the awards submission criteria. So when we were selected as finalists, we were delighted. To then go on to win was a great achievement and we certainly enjoyed celebrating on the night. Our in-house legal team is a great resource to Standard Life, so it’s good to see their excellence recognised by the judges and our peers in this way.”

These awards are a cause for celebration for Scottish Water and Standard Life, and remind us of the valuable contribution of the Scottish in-house legal profession.

In-house lawyers know their organisations, understand their priorities and key deliverables, exhibit clarity of thought and preference for action, manage budgets that are always under pressure, and add tangible value for money to their organisation’s bottom line. In-house lawyers are also involved in a very wide range of complex legal, business and management issues, on their own or in collaboration with external counsel. They provide further added value to such dealings by managing the relationships with their external agents.

The In-house Lawyers Group of the Law Society of Scotland represents the interests of the growing Scottish in-house legal profession. Its current chair is Lynda Towers, solicitor to the Scottish Parliament, and vice chair is Sara Scott, an in-house lawyer with Royal Bank of Scotland. Lynda and Sara are keen to drive the In-house Lawyers Group forward and take it to the next level.

There are many examples of excellence in practice among our in-house legal teams. We want to hear more about them, and it is hoped that the number of submissions for future In-house Legal Team of the Year awards will continue to increase.

Stop press

Standard Life Group legal team has also been shortlisted as In-house Banking and Financial Services Team of the Year for the 2013 awards by The Lawyer magazine. The winner will be announced on 25 June.



The Author
Graeme McWilliams, Legal Adviser, Standard Life, Edinburgh is a member of the Law Society of Scotland’s IP & Technology and In-house Lawyers Group committees, and the IP accreditation panel. This article and the opinions or comments within it, are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the views of Standard Life Group or the Law Society of Scotland.   (© Pictures by John Young/
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