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GC POWERLIST: Germany 2014 (in association with Milbank)
The Legal 500 has been analysing the capabilities of law firms across the world for 28 years. The Legal 500 has shifted the attention to the in-house function, shining a spotlight on the role of corporate counsel, and in particular those individuals who are driving both legal and business issues to the forefront. The latest edition is the GC Powerlist: Germany, which identifies an array of the most influential and innovative in-house counsel working in Germany. ...read more
We have canvassed opinion from our 2.5 million in-house readers and partners at law firms in Germany (and wider Europe), to bring you the in-house stars that are driving the profession. The selected corporate counsel are those who are changing or forming opinions within their company or industry; have developed brilliant technical solutions to complex issues; created innovative structures to ensure that the in-house function is driving the business forward; provided a diversity or business working model that other corporate counsel should follow.
If you have feedback on the GC Powerlist: Germany, or wish to nominate other in-house individuals (either in Germany or global), please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope that this listing will stimulate debate around the role of the in-house lawyer and help corporate counsel with possible improvements and efficiencies in running their departments.
|David Burgess||Andrea Leber|
|Publishing Director||Germany Editor|
(listed in alphabetical order; click on an individual to view an expanded biography)
Head of global brand protection
Weener Plastic Packaging Group
Deputy general counsel Europe
General corporate counsel
Zurich Gruppe Deutschland
Corporate compliance officer
Head of legal and compliance
Senior legal counsel
Group compliance officer and corporate legal counsel
General counsel EMEAA
B. Braun Group
Daniel de Bruycker
Department head legal
Executive director legal
Head of legal
Vice president patents
Fresenius Medical Care
Head of legal
DFB Deutscher Fußball-Bund
General counsel EMEA
General counsel and chief compliance officer
Senior legal counsel
Sony Mobile Communications
Head of employment law
E.ON Risk Consulting
Head of legal
STAWAG Stadtwerke Aachen
Deutsche Annington Immobilien
Head of legal
Assistant general counsel Europe
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Head of legal project and acquisition finance
Legal advisor (HR)
Euler Hermes Deutschland
Head of legal
Head of European litigation
Senior corporate counsel
Director legal investment banking
Senior legal counsel
Senior legal counsel
Head of Department/Group Legal
Senior legal counsel, employment law specialist
Fujitsu Technology Solutions
Group legal counsel
Head of legal
Villeroy & Boch
Till von Kutzschenbach
Counsel law and regulatory
Head of legal power generation compression
Siemens, Energy Sector
Head of Legal
Group general counsel
dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Head of legal
Head of Legal
IVG Institutional Funds
Associate general counsel
McKinsey & Company
Head of legal
Legal counsel – copyright and litigation
DekaBank Deutsche Girozentrale
Senior counsel (Trade marks)
Head of legal
DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga
Porsche Automobil Holding
Peek & Cloppenburg
Head of legal – Continental Europe
UBS Real Estate Kapitalanlagegesellschaft
Vice president legal
bsi Bundesverband Sachwerte und Investmentvermögen
Head of legal and insurance
EnBW Energie Baden-Württemberg
Head of legal and compliance
Country head legal and compliance
DFB Deutscher Fußball-Bund
Vice president, global IP and IP litigation
Head of legal and works council EU
Legal director Austria and legal manager Germany
MSD SHARP & DOHME (Merck & Co.)
Head of legal and compliance Germany
Head of legal
PVH Holdings (Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein)
Head of regulatory law
Senior vice president legal and general counsel
Holtzbrinck Publishing Group
General counsel Europe and Asia
Head of employment law
Philipp Voet van Vormizeele
Georg von Bronk
Head of legal and risk governance
Eberhard von Klinggräff
Corporate vice president legal affairs
Jens von Lackum
Senior vice president HR and legal affairs
Head of Legal
Giesecke & Devrient
General counsel and chief compliance
Senior legal counsel
Hitachi Data Systems
Senior vice president – head of group legal and compliance
Managing director (HR and legal affairs)
Senior legal counsel
Chief legal officer and chief compliance officer
Director Global Patents
Senior Legal Counsel
General counsel and data protection officer
Tarec Alio is global litigation legal counsel for car manufacturer Daimler, responsible for US lawsuit defence, including international warranties, product liability and class action lawsuits, as well as the coordination of contentious proceedings in the US, the Middle East and the EU – a huge task in a company with a €118bn turnover and 275.000 employees. Currently his attention is directed towards the possible implementation of EU-wide class actions (Sammelklage). Alio is also deeply involved in various legal associations, where one of his achievements has been setting up the BUJ’s (Federal Association of Corporate Counsel) nationwide product liability expert group, which he is heading. Those outside counsel who he works with regularly are expected to ‘deliver clear replies and focus on the essential issues’. In his role, he particularly values the opportunity for ‘cross-cultural team work’ and further factors contributing to his success are his dual qualification (New York and Germany), as well has the many years of experience under his belt working for international law firms in the area of international dispute resolution.
Guido Baumgartner is described as ‘uncompromising’ when it comes to defending the model of selective sales and distribution of products, a character trait that benefits him in his role as the
head of legal for the company’s global brand protection, part of which is also ensuring that the adopted selective distribution model is honoured. In this role, Baumgartner looks back on countless legal proceedings which ‘not only meant significant progress for his company, but also for the sector as a whole’, say peers. In Europe, he has been a driving force behind several European Court of Justice rulings, and in the US ongoing proceedings led by the company are being watched closely. Baumgartner has repeatedly contributed to triggering major market changes well beyond Germany’s borders, including in China where a ‘landmark ruling’ regarding the implementation of effective market control is imminent. In Germany, several Federal Court rulings can be traced back to Baumgartner, be it in the areas of competition, antitrust or trade marks. Outside of his day-to-day work, he dedicates his time to MARQUES, the European association representing the interests of trade mark owners.
Prior to Gabriele Beckmann joining Weener Plastic Packaging, a legal department had been non-existent and it was her task to build it from scratch and develop it into the well-oiled instrument it is now. Apart from her role as general counsel, she also dedicates time to specific M&A, corporate and patent matters. She’s proved valuable during the company’s long ongoing phase of expansion, its sale to a private equity investor in 2012 and the consequent worldwide acquisition programme. To meet the challenge, Beckmann reallocated tasks and restructured and grew teams covering each relevant subject matter. A particular highlight has been the aforementioned private equity transaction where Beckmann was responsible for the legal and insurance due diligence, as well as for the financial due diligence. The wake of this transaction has brought other challenges in the two following years, among them due diligence proceedings in the Netherlands, India, Brasil and Turkey, including the enormous task of ensuring the new entity’s integration into the existing structure. Beckmann masterfully navigated a wide range of legal frameworks in several non-European countries and emphasises that in many cases ‘the precise judgement of the other party’s mentality leads to a successful deal closure’. Beckmann has also led two refinancing programmes, each amounting to a three digit million-euro figure, including the tax and business administrative aspects which required for her to ‘familiarise myself with non-legal business areas’. Beckmann values in her role the ability to ‘develop novel solutions for new challenges in a range of areas and countries’ while working with ‘people from a variety of backgrounds and mentalities from all over the world’.
Hatfield Philips International is a servicer of primarily European CMBS transactions with hundreds of securitised, mortgage-backed bonds amounting to a high two figure billion euro sum. Deputy General Counsel Europe, Annette Benner ‘shapes, supervises and drives forward highly innovative proceedings’, say observers, ‘both in terms of commercial progress and court proceedings, ranging from Federal Court proceedings to cross-border insolvency proceedings’. Benner plays an active role in implementing mortgage-backed financings which contain substantial legal elements that ‘have been ruled upon for the first time by a higher court and are landmark cases not only for the CMBS sector but for the real estate financing sector as a whole’. Benner’s work is described as ‘cutting edge, every day, again and again’ and peers count her among the ‘absolute elite of restructuring and real estate sector corporate counsel’.
Since 2011, Alexander Bordolo has been successfully building and growing the German legal department of British conglomerate Johnson Matthey with one of his most recent initiatives being the implementation of a ‘legal champions programme’ that ‘identifies and purposefully trains particularly talented non-lawyers stemming from our operative business so that they can eventually take over certain contract design matters from the legal department’. This initiative has its roots in Bordolo’s overall high esteem for operative business teams, as ‘they are the ones who conduct business based on our legal advice’. Bordolo views his role as ‘going beyond the sole function as legal counsel’ and who relishes the opportunity to ‘think outside the legal box and contribute to the company’s business development’. A particular success has been the development and implementation of a company-wide anti-corruption policy. He says of successful external law firms, they are able to ‘grasp every detail of the client’s business’ because ‘products developed externally are often not suited to be implemented, in which case firms are unable to take the load off the in-house department’.
Ina Berg-Winters had to face one of her biggest challenges upon her arrival at NORMA: setting up a legal department from scratch. ‘Prior to me joining, all legal matters that went beyond mere document administration work had been given to outside counsel.’ Since then the legal department has come a long way. Berg-Winters set up internal processes to meet the stock market law requirements listed companies are subject to, while mastering the task of ‘maintaining or increasing quality while lowering costs’. Specific to her role is the dual responsibility for M&A and legal matters. M&A transactions are a vital part of the future long term growth plan for the Hessian company with an annual turnover of €600m and 4,500 employees globally. In the past two years alone, the company has acquired and integrated entities in Australia, Italy, Poland and Malaysia. A particular legal challenge has been the transformation of the company in 2013 from a listed company (AG) in a SE, where during negotiations with employee representatives, Berg-Winters reached a ‘creative solution that was a success for both sides’. It was partly the ‘thorough preparation of corporate law subject matter that ensured a quick and smooth transformation’. Berg-Winters is the exception to the norm as she attends all board meetings and does not only cover legal matters but is also involved in strategy and company management. ‘Because I’m in charge of legal and M&A I continually work on the company’s growth, from finding suitable targets to the final signing’.
As Legal Counsel to one of Germany’s largest insurance groups, which operates as a part of the global Zurich Insurance Group, Niklas Boslak has met a variety of challenges. Insurance providers are operating in a sector that is subject to continuously changing legal frameworks which challenge the legal department to cover a rising work load with increased efficiency. Key in Boslak’s role has therefore been making adjustments as to how the legal department operates, but also developing the willingness to ‘accept that as in-house counsel we have to set a clear focus on the management of legal topics’. A particular success has been the Federal Court ruling in favour of his company regarding the defence of claims for damages resulting from financial investments, a ruling that had a knock-on effect on other proceedings covering similar matters, and has therefore been a ‘huge success’. But positive court rulings are not the only measure of success for Boslak: Success is ‘if we anticipate regulatory measures, successfully translate these into projects and if these projects prove themselves in practice’. External advisors should be able to ‘adjust to the client’s organisation and processes, not the other way around’. Law firms should also ‘apart from the focus on what is legally possible not lose sight of commercial drivers from the company’s perspective, beyond the case at hand’.
Up until 2010, Corinne Bourrat had been head of legal at renewable energy project developer juwi, when she moved into her current role as Corporate Compliance Officer. Her work focuses on the development of legally sound and pragmatic solutions while keeping an eye on resources used. She adopts a balanced approach: ‘In a company it’s not about representing one’s own interests but about business relationships, often long term, where the main focus can’t always be to be right’. What she expects of her team are ‘a good measure of creativity and the willingness to try something new’. Bourrat couples this with established structures and has developed contract templates and set standards for her team. She has also successfully developed and implemented a compliance management system for the mid-market company that has 1,800 employees globally. In a previous role she has been in charge of a Luxembourg holding company, Demag Holding Gruppe, including its participations in Germany, Switzerland and the UK, where Bourrat not only oversaw the development of the holding structure but also the refinancing and eventual sales of those participations, up until the IPO and the holding company’s dissolution. When working with external lawyers, Bourrat is not looking for the legally most refined solution, neither for a competition with the in-house department. She is not trying to find a better lawyer among external counsel, but ‘the best advisor for support in a particular situation’.
Gerhard Brand has been head of legal & compliance at PERI since 2012 and the ‘very good lawyer and great analytical mind’ has within a short time succeeded in setting up a powerful team. His in-house team covers the legal matters of a company with over €1bn turnover and subsidiaries in 56 countries. Brand also benefitted from his 13 years’ experience as head of legal at Vaillant Group. Within two years he managed to implement binding governance rules company-wide, set up a functioning compliance management system and has standardised how board decisions are communicated internally. He has also developed standard contracts for German and international projects and established rules as to how these are being used. A particular highlight during his time at Vaillant has been the €1.1bn acquisition of Hepworth Group, as well as the successful dealing with several international product liability matters which were of wide-ranging commercial significance for the company. In his current role Brand is fortunate ‘to mostly be able to implement my views as to how a legal department should operate’.
Klaus Brandenburg receives praise for his performance as head of legal at Sandoz, a position he occupied until the end of 2013. In this role, he systematically strengthened the position of individual employees and has transferred responsibilities for important cases to team members. This has been a vital step in a legal department that is dealing with a high volume of complex and international work on a daily basis, such as construction projects in Russia, which Brandenburg describes as a particular highlight. Since the beginning of 2014, Brandenburg has been part of a team in charge of biopharmaceuticals of the Novartis business unit Sandoz which brought new, added global responsibilities and new challenges. Law firms he works with should put emphasis on sector knowledge, which in his experience ‘is not always regarded as absolutely necessary for providing legal advice’ based on the view that the firm has capabilities in the overall legal area. ‘I don’t think this approach is sustainable’.
Semperit operates in the medicine and industrial sectors, and develops and distributes specialist products made of synthetics and rubber. The group employs over 10,000 staff of which over 7,000 are based in Asia. Jutta Buchholzer has been successful in her role as group compliance officer and corporate legal counsel, developing and implementing a consistent compliance programme for all global subsidiaries, including in Europe, Asia and the Americas. Her global work also includes numerous formations of international subsidiaries as well as restructurings or closures of operations in Europe and Asia. One of the more recent cases has been a complex restructuring in Germany which also required moving headquarters to a different location. A particular challenge in her role is ‘building up a level of awareness and understanding of compliance with long-term employees’. Law firms that want to win work have to ‘tackle problems using good judgement: not everything has to be checked to the tiniest detail but in certain sensitive cases this might be required’.
Michael Bütter is regarded as ‘the star among German corporate counsel’, who has ‘successfully driven forward some of the most complex and high-volume projects in the German legal market’, based on his ‘outstanding combination of legal, tactical, commercial and soft skills’, say observers who rate him as ‘among the most versatile CCs’ and as a ‘charismatic team leader’. His responsibilities comprise legal, compliance, data protection, export control, M&A, and governance. He can draw on his comprehensive experience, including heading the legal department of Deutsche Annington Immobilien, Germany’s largest housing corporation, prior to joining Ferrostaal. There, he set up and developed the department from scratch from 2008-2013 and grew it to one of the largest in-house departments of any private equity-owned company in Germany. As a result, the department has been operating almost exclusively without external counsel. At Ferrostaal he is currently implementing a global compliance management system, a task he will surely handle successfully given his long list of career highlights. Much talked about is still the €5bn GRAND (German Residential Asset Note Distributor) CMBS refinancing of Deutsche Annington in 2012/2013 which in spite of the financial crisis has been secured in a landmark case via an English scheme of arrangement. This legally complex solution saved the company from insolvency and protected thousands of jobs. Subsequently, Bütter has also successfully handled the company’s IPO. Not surprising, his standards for external counsel are high. They have to be ‘really better than in-house counsel, with more sector knowledge and giving truly comprehensive advice’. He says that law firms should ‘not charge for associates in the first 2-3 years as they often don’t add any value’.
Klaus Cannivé’s inclusion is ‘highly deserved’ say peers, based not only on achievements in his current role which he only took up in January 2014, but on his three years at Commerzbank. Highlights that created a stir in the market were his legal advice on several capital measures for the bank, particularly the hybrid-to-equity swap 2011 designed to strengthen the bank’s core capital quote, ‘an extremely complex transaction that in a difficult market set the foundation for several of the bank’s following capital measures’. Remarkably, the entire project was handled without any external legal support but from a small, internal legal team that negotiated and structured all details, ‘a rarity even for much less complex capital market transactions’. Cannivé has also handled the sale of the bank’s depositary banking business in 2013 with a funds volume of €93bn. Cross-border challenges are not a problem, including assuming non-legal related responsibilities as executive board member of Dresdner Bank’s Latin America branch (Dresdner Lateinamerika) in addition to his ongoing tasks at Commerzbank (which acquired Dresdner in 2009). In his current position at GfK he has already initiated changes such as the increased interaction between jurisdictions, as well as the increased centralisation and the pro-active management of external counsel. Cannivé enjoys ‘instigating processes and negotiating commercial aspects’ with the goal ‘to close the deal’. Law firms should show ‘more pragmatism, offer less theoretical Erörterungen’ and show ‘more courage to give clear recommendations’.
Bradley Chait is the sole legal financial advisor for all of OSRAM’s subsidiaries, a position the company has created when preparing its de-merger from Siemens in 2012. Chait advises the CFO comprehensively on all finance law matters, including external financings with banks, among them the group’s new global syndicated loan. In addition, he covers all financial aspects of ongoing commercial and project financings, and in a globally operating company such as OSRAM, ‘there isn’t one single repetitive day’. Unsurprisingly, the de-merger from Siemens has been a highlight, including the ‘necessary preparations in order to set up a company as a legally independent entity’. OSRAM, historically financed through Siemens, had to develop internal structures in order to be ‘fully operational from its first day of listing on the stock exchange’. Chait had to consider issues such as cash flows and determine the strategy of the highest possible risk minimisation, a situation where ‘a lawyer acts as part of a commercially and economically operating team’. Chait has mastered this challenge, partly drawing on previous experience with large scale company transactions such as his work in the legal finance department of the then newly created telecoms joint venture between Siemens and Nokia, namely Nokia Siemens Networks. Chait has played a vital role in the inception of the new legal entity OSRAM, something he describes as ‘immensely fulfilling’. He enjoys the job most when he manages to place his company in ‘the best position possible to negotiate with banks’. When working with outside counsel, he emphasises the role of the in-house department: ‘If you take the time to precisely outline all parameters, a firm is usually able to meet requirements on time and in a commercial manner’.
Volker Daum has been general counsel to B. Braun Group for five years and heads a team of 52 employees, most of which are based abroad, as well as an additional nine patent lawyers. A particular challenge was the creation of a global legal network incorporating all of the company’s 20 legal departments and to ensure the ongoing communication, both nationally and internationally: a huge task for Daum in a company with over 45,000 employees and subsidiaries in 50 countries. Daum has also standardised the department’s work by introducing Legal Case Management Software and he currently runs a “Legal School” for the in-house team; ‘there is no day without new challenges’, he summarises. The company was founded in 1839 and has remained family-owned to this day. Maybe this is partly why Daum expects that external counsel ‘should familiarise themselves more with a company’s internal workings’. He also sees the need for more innovative fee structures and regards hourly fees as ‘outdated’.
Daniel de Bruycker’s role at McDonald’s Deutschland is multifaceted: he heads two areas within the German legal department, franchise law including contract and environment law, as well as IP/IT matters including food law. One of the initial tasks after joining had been to increase the legal department’s presence in the company’s other departments and the board, as well as increase the knowledge of operative processes within the team. He has met these challenges and has also achieved a fee reduction for IP and IT law matters by over 50 percent, mostly by streamlining the screening processes, introducing a more systematical risk management and by handling more matters in-house. He has also been advocating for early specialisation of employees, particularly regarding trends such as social media and food law. A particular success in his career has been the first product placement on German TV after the amendment of the Interstate Broadcasting Agreement (Rundfunkstaatsvertrag) based on the EU product placement ruling in 2010 came into effect – with the McDonald’s trade mark McCafé. He has also successfully defended the company against a producer’s copyright lawsuit regarding the McDonald’s jingle ‘I’m loving it’. Partly based on his work for a company that is frequently subject to media reporting, he expects from external advisors to ‘more take into account potential media coverage’ and to provide ‘brief, short and focused’ results.
Merz Pharma is a pharmaceutical company with subsidiaries in England, France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Spain, the US, Mexico, Russia and Asia and a turnover of €980m. Degenhardt not only heads a team of lawyers but is also in charge of the trade mark department. One of the most distinct changes she has implemented is the ‘clear allocation of responsibilities and internal go-to contacts’, and has also clearly defined response times to be met. Highlights, apart from successfully completed transactions, were complex licensing projects, always with a keen eye on the challenge to continuously optimise processes regarding quality and efficiency. Maybe this is the reason why she identifies the need for a ‘significant simplification of written communication and legal opinions’ when working with law firms.
Achim Deisenroth understands that one of the major challenges for any legal department is to continuously adjust its work to a changing environment, especially in compliance and risk management. He sees the legal department not as law firm within the company but ensures that the legal team is actively involved in all of the company’s internal processes. ‘Previously existing reservations are gone’, and Deisenroth watches closely that the regular interaction with other business units becomes and remains part of the legal department’s daily tasks, as much as the setting up of internal training. Deisenroth also set up legal training in risk management and compliance. A career highlight has been the successful restructuring in relation to the company succession in a family-owned company, but to him the most valuable success is ‘the good reputation of the legal department, internally and externally’. He enjoys most the ‘close cooperation with the company’s owners and its various departments’ which enables him ‘to be part of and initiate imminent change’. He says law firms should ‘operate as service providers while keeping an eye on the costs’.
Manfred Döss is widely regarded as ‘extremely experienced and determined’, maybe not surprising given his in-house career. Before joining Porsche, Döss gained extensive experience in his role as general counsel to energy provider RWE where he dealt with ‘a wide range of complex issues’ such as ‘all aspects of corporate law, compliance, regulatory issues, nuclear energy exit strategies as well as international litigation’, summarise peers, full of praise. Prior to his time at RWE, he headed MG Technologies’ legal department for eight years. ‘Whatever can happen in the life of a GC, Manfred Döss has already been through it’. It is particularly this experience that will enable him to handle the ongoing claims for damages proceedings brought by hedge funds resulting from the attempted takeover of Volkswagen during which investors have supposedly been misinformed. The dispute has been widely reported in the media, adding another layer of complexity and reputational risk.
Joerg Dreyhsig is vice president for patents for medical instruments company Fresenius Medical Care, which has a turnover of $14bn and has 86,000 employees. Dreyhsig focuses on the areas of registration, defence and IP enforcement, including the defence against law suits brought by third parties regarding alleged infringements. Dreyhsig has witnessed how Fresenius developed from a larger mid-cap company into a world leader in its field and a DAX30 company, demanding a continuous adjustment in terms of patent work. One of his major achievements is that due to increased professionalism, a wide range of matters are now being handled in-house, but he points out that the ‘higher level of competency also leads to more success when working with law firms’. Career highlights have been the enforcement of nullity or substantial limitation to numerous European IP rights of competitors, while at the same time ‘the proprietary protection of our own products has been significantly increased over the years’. One of the major challenges has been ‘preserving the company’s room to act even under difficult circumstances’. He enjoys the ‘international and continually evolving nature of the legal field’ fuelled by new legislation. ‘The new unitary patent as well as the unified patent court will present exciting new challenges’. Law firms should ‘avoid overburdening themselves with work and sacrifice quality; a competent client recognises this and acts accordingly’.
Jörg Englisch is head of legal at the German Football Association (Deutscher Fußball-Bund), the governing body of football in Germany and a registered association with 6.8m members. Particular career highlights are, not surprisingly, the allocation of media rights for the German national team’s games as well as the DFB-Pokal tournament, procedures that receive extensive media coverage and are being closely watched by millions of fans. In his role, he particularly enjoys the ‘variety of legal issues that come up and the co-operation with experts in other fields’.
Martin Fischer has positioned the legal department of chemical industry company Celanese more closely to commercial and strategic matters. This approach resulted from his observation that ‘the task of in-house counsel has changed from legal advisor to commercial advisor, which reflects precisely how I perceive this function’. The streamlined department faces a multitude of responsibilities, a challenge that Fischer meets by ‘permanently increasing efficiency’. However, he has also purposefully grown the team, and since he started heading the legal department three years ago he has been able to take two experienced lawyers from magic circle firms. One of the major challenges in his career has been the disincorporation of the company’s global environmental liabilities in 2012, which it inherited during its spin-off from Höchst in 1999, leading to a significant risk reduction. Other challenges were factory closures in France and Spain in 2013, both of which were completed ‘in a respectful manner after an unfortunately unsuccessful sales attempt’. Fischer values the international way of working, ‘particularly bearing in mind the company’s eventful past as a former Höchst division, followed by the takeover and sale by Blackstone and the relocation of its headquarters from Höchst to Texas’. Throughout any of these processes it is the legal department which is key in ensuring a smooth communication: ‘it has to translate, both from legal to commercial as well as between different departments, languages, legal frameworks and cultures’. Fischer’s regard for the importance of communication also reflected in his view of in-house counsel who are ‘equally responsible for successful cooperation with law firms; however, law firms have to ‘understand the business, products and markets of their clients’.
Styrolution is a global supplier of styrene plastics and a BASF and INEOS joint venture with a turnover of €5.8bn and over 3,000 employees worldwide. Not surprising, Anke Frankenberger’s team is based all over the world, and she has been recruiting lawyers in Germany, China, the US, France, Poland and India. A daily challenge she sets herself is the ‘selection, motivation and guidance of staff’ but what she enjoys is the ‘international nature of the work and the proximity to commercial and technical issues and decisions’ but also ‘that you never know in the morning what you will have done by the end of the day, in spite of a clear plan’. A corner stone for her success is her motto that ‘good in-house work is always based on service orientation and precision, just as it is in a good law firm’. She is convinced that it is ‘only in rare circumstances sensible’ to directly join an in-house legal department and she actively encourages secondments to offer young lawyers at law firms the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the in-house perspective. External lawyers score points if they ‘ask more and listen more closely’ and continuously coordinate rather than ‘simply wait for new instructions’.
Maria Fransson’s employer is based in Sweden but the main focus of her work over the past ten years has been the German market, particularly the German courts. A particular challenge has been the ‘combination of business and legal world which at times can appear like two different universes’, a challenge that she has masterfully overcome. Her success is partly based on a new definition of in-house counsel which she implemented in the team: ‘I have shifted the focus from a surveying to a driving role’ which Fransson understands as ‘taking responsibility for all matters that are coming up during a legal case’. A crucial part of this role model is team work. ‘In a litigation team, the team spirit is everything, it’s the basis for every single success’. She has successfully implemented an open and informal work environment that makes it ‘easier to pick up the phone than send a formal email’. Fransson’s career highlights are ‘fair court rulings based on a combination of the team’s technical, commercial and legal skills’.
Michael Fritz has been working for Deutsche Bahn for 14 years and has built a ‘punchy legal department that can easily hold a candle to any employment law boutique’, say peers. Deutsche Bahn is a company with over 300,000 employees that is frequently subject of media coverage. Fritz has impressed by being able to ‘ingeniously and on a very high level, bundle, structure and overcome the countless legal and political challenges within the company’. One recipe for success may be his approach to ‘utilise legal knowledge based on project work’ adopting a concept of ‘flexible team organisation’. This approach has helped him to overcome challenges such as several pay disputes with unions and the preparation of the planned (and cancelled last minute) IPO of Deutsche Bahn. Often finding solutions meeting such complex requirements needs ‘sensitive communication with internal departments, advocacy groups and often also unions’. If Fritz employs external counsel he feels success is based on one assumption: ‘we have learnt not to see each other as service provider and contracting entity but as partners who work on the same issue’. He does not believe that in-house counsel are less independent than lawyers at law firms: ‘If the board asks for a legal opinion a straight forward reply is needed’. If then the request is to consider alternative solutions, ‘are we not giving a service that is any different to what an external counsel would have done in the same situation’?
Frank Gartmann is not part of the energy provider’s legal department as such but is in charge of the coverage of E.ON Risk Consulting’s global liability risks. In this role he negotiates the respective insurance protection with all relevant industrial insurers and designs insurance contracts. One of his key tasks is to advise on and monitor major liability cases while being in charge of their most efficient processing and settlement with insurance providers. Particular highlights and at the same time challenges are the repeated negotiation and implementation of the company’s interests in large scale insurance case. In one case Gartmann favourably negotiated the extension of the company-wide liability insurance programme resulting in total savings of several million euros. He enjoys being able to deliver ‘legal and insurance advice on a range of contracts, regarding a multitude of different projects worldwide’. Having 20 years of sector experience under his belt, he expects mainly one thing from law firms: lawyers who ‘don’t have an insurance background should not attempt to advise on insurance law particularities’.
Dirk Gasse is director of legal at Globalfoundries, a US semi-conductor manufacturer which until 2009 had been part of US chip manufacturer Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and is now owned by Abu Dhabi’s Advanced Technology Investment Company (ATIC). The company has 10,000 employees globally and its 2012 turnover amounted to $4.5bn. Prior to his current role, Gasse worked for IBM where legal counsel traditionally ‘play a strong and active role and are well-integrated in the business’. However, at Globalfoundries, the legal department mostly provided advice when asked, but Gasse is convinced that ‘a legal department adds much more value as part of the business, if it is involved in major projects from the very beginning and offers more than just legal advice’. Gasse encourages his employees to ‘actively seek and fulfill this role’, while taking ‘commercial repercussions into account and develop strategies’. Under his guidance the legal department has successfully changed its approach and has been able to handle complex matters, such as the issue of ‘creating a new company out of a US-German chip manufacturer and a Singaporean semiconductor business with an investor from Abu Dhabi, all that as part of a global team’. When facing these challenges, Gasse needs law firms to ‘understand our business and risk profile’ while being ‘solution-oriented and not too careful’.
Alexandra Genten heads STAWAG Stadtwerke Aachen’s legal department. The company provides services in the gas, district heating, water and electricity sectors. Genten is highly regarded for her ‘connected way of thinking and her solution-oriented approach’ and ‘is among the particularly outstanding legal counsel in the public utility sector’. STAWAG operates as a listed company, a situation that frequently requires quick and commercially viable responses by the in-house team. Apart from having technical excellence, Genten distinguishes herself notably by her ability ‘to quickly grasp new trends and problem areas and provide swift solutions before legal or commercial risks can even arise’. She receives praise from all sides for her ‘structured way of thinking, across various specialist legal fields’ which enables her to identify issues quickly and find solutions while at all times ‘keeping an eye on her company’s commercial interests’. Genten ‘does not create obstacles but solves problems in a creative and goal-oriented manner’.
Thomas Görgemanns is general counsel at Deutsche Annington Immobilien, with 210,000 properties in 600 locations Germany’s largest housing association, entirely owned by private equity investor Terra Firma Capital Partners. Görgemanns’ recipe for a successful legal department is partly an ‘increase in the degree of freedom and responsibility of every team member’. This approach is based on his substantial housing sector experience. Prior to joining his current employer, he worked for its competitor Gagfah which he advised on two IPOs and numerous transactions, among them the simultaneous acquisition of two groups of companies with 41,000 housing units with a total value of €2.4bn. He also gained substantial expertise when building the Gagfah legal department ‘in a period of turmoil right before the IPO’ in 2006, during which Gagfah was set up as Société Anonyme under Luxembourg law. He perceives success in working with external counsel is not only based on legal skills and experience, which he regards as a given, but ‘what really makes a difference is pragmatism and commitment as well as a grasp of commercial issues’.
Thomas Gottlöber has initiated significant change in the legal department of his employer, a group of media companies specialising in business and finance coverage. He has ‘streamlined the legal department, negotiated agreements with law firms and centralised the handling of all legal matters’. He also implemented new software that ensured the switch to ‘electronic filing’. Particular challenges have been several corporate outsourcings as well as setting up joint ventures but his varied work also includes press law proceedings and innovative matters such as IT projects, most recently the introduction of apps for the media company’s products. Gottlöber’s work is rewarding because of ‘its varied nature and interesting projects around our established brands such as Handelsblatt and WirtschaftsWoche’. Law firms need to deliver ‘short, to-the-point and practice-oriented advice, always taking into account commercial drivers’.
Florian Harms’ move from law firm Gide Loyrette Nouel into Emerson’s European legal department in 2012 was at the same time a move from a very European outlook into a global environment ‘marked by an American way of thinking’. Harms’ tasks are very varied as he works on three of the company’s businesses: Climate Technologies, Industrial Automation and Commercial & Residential Solutions, while also covering work for the Process Management division. In practice this means that he is in charge of 28 subsidiaries in 30 locations, which reported a turnover of $1bn in 2013. A particular challenge is therefore apart from ongoing work being able to ‘proactively cover strategic projects, particularly in the area of corporate compliance’. For Harms, a key factor for success as an in-house counsel is the ability, ‘to identify the right firm with the right expertise and fee structure for novel work’, however, he is able to rely on a wide network of contacts to minimise the ‘risk of unforeseen high legal fees’.
Under Simon Haug’s guidance the legal department’s responsibilities have been extended to the entire publishing group, including well known titles such as Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Frankfurter Rundschau and Frankfurter Neue Presse, as well as all subsidiaries. At the same time, decision processes have been successfully centralised with the result that ‘the entire group is now subject to a unified decision procedure’. Haug has already initiated other projects, among them the significant growth of the knowledge management department. A particular legal challenge in his career has been the take over and integration of insolvent daily newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau. The range of issues he covers is wide and also includes matters such as taking legal action against online book store buch.de in a dispute regarding the commercial use of online reviews, as well as a variety of press and freedom of speech law topics. In his role he also needs to ‘actively defend content’ and set the legal frame work for new projects such as the potential introduction of a pay wall. Haug perceives his role as supporting the publisher in publishing content and marketing its products and he particularly enjoys being part of ‘the digital revolution in media company’. Key for external legal advisors is the ability to ‘realistically evaluate success prospects of proceedings’.
Dennis Heidschmidt has developed all processes, standards and recruitment in the areas of acquisition and project finance for Dutch ING Bank. Heidschmidt has in particular improved the way how large clients of the bank are being advised, particularly DAX companies, and has made significant changes in the area of trade finance services, regarding guarantees and bonds among others. He has managed to improve efficiency mainly by ‘identifying potential crossovers and improving co-operation of all entities involved in the credit process’. The result has been a measurable increase in customer satisfaction and an increased efficiency of legal services. He is advising on large scale projects that require both the internal management of resources and the integration of his Dutch colleagues. Particular highlights previously have been his major involvement in Commerzbank’s €11bn capital increase in 2011 as well as the bank’s hybrid capital restructuring in 2010 and 2011. A particular challenge for in-house counsel in his view is the ‘ongoing significant change of the market for in-house legal services’. Corporate counsel who want to have influence need to convince their ‘internal clients, right up to the board, of the economic value they add’. Overall, corporate counsel have to be ‘integrated into the business, add value and proactively develop solutions’.
Euler Hermes is a credit insurance company headquartered in Paris and a global industry leader with over 6,000 employees in more than 50 countries; Euler Hermes Deutschland is Germany’s leading credit insurer with a market share of 40 percent. Katharina Heller’s position as legal advisor (HR) is the only such position in the entire company and she is in charge of employment-related measures from inception until implementation. Career highlights include ‘those moments when I see happy staff members after a measure has been implemented, such as after the introduction of flexible working hours’. A milestone for her has been the realisation that ‘even the tiniest employer contribution can have an enormous effect, something that we usually don’t measure economically’. Her credo is therefore ‘to always keep an eye on the small details’. Law firms should bear in mind the company culture. ‘The legally most sound and perfect advice won’t be a success if the company is on a totally different wavelength’.
Carsten Hennicke’s employer is among Germany’s largest providers of equity-linked insurance policies with an administered capital of €5.1bn. Hennicke ‘has steered the company in times of difficult markets and scarce resources through a variety of legal proceedings, restructurings and divestments’ say observers who highly rate his ‘efficient and pragmatic solving of legal and logistical issues on a large scale’. Hennicke’s success is certainly based on his ‘unbeatable internal and external coordination of resources’ and he counts among ‘the best in-house counsel’. His performance is also rooted in many years of experience: He has been developing the legal department since joining in 2007 and in 2012 was appointed head of contract management while also being appointed member of the executive committee. He also handled the restructuring of Lloyds Banking Group’s European insurance business, ‘a legally demanding project during which we had to merge several foreign entities into one German entity’, he explains. Another, still ongoing, career highlight is the sale of Lloyds Banking Group to Cinven Partners and Hannover Rück. He enjoys working at ‘the intersection of board members, management and the different departments’. External advisors have to offer ‘shorter and more to-the-point documents and be less risk adverse in their recommendations’; which Hennicke believes saves costs. ‘A good lawyer has to adapt the approach to the client’s economic needs’.
Ralf Hermann is general counsel at MAG IAS, a German mechanical engineering company and MAG Europe subsidiary with a turnover of €600m. When Hermann joined in 2011, the company was being held in trusteeship, with the final goal of a sale. These were turbulent times, with the company constantly facing insolvency, during which Hermann provided ‘very intensive legal advice’. The sale did not take place, partly because the company had seen better results than expected and the banks agreed on retransferring the company to its original owners. Hermann has masterfully conducted ‘tricky negotiations with banks, clients and suppliers’, while keeping an eye on stock exchange Börse Stuttgart’s requirements, due to the company issuing an m-bond (Mittelstandsanleihe). The end of 2013 brought ‘relief when we were able to sell a loss-making part of the company in an asset deal’. But challenges never cease to arise, and currently Hermann handles financing and refinancing matters, always closely interacting with the board of directors. Overall a career highlight has certainly been ‘advising the company when entering and then when exiting its trusteeship’, a legal challenge not many in-house counsel experience.
One of the first and most crucial changes Clemens Heusch implemented when taking over as head of european litigation was the ‘team’s decentralisation so that team members are located right where our cases are based’. He has also ‘significantly reduced the number of external counsel and changed the way in which fees are charged’. The success of this approach speaks for itself: Highlights of his career were, among others, several litigation successes against IPCom and reaching a settlement with Apple, however, Heusch had to successfully overcome initial challenges such as first-instance defeats against IPCom with the danger of a potential sales ban. Heusch is also particularly involved in the ‘development of litigation strategies’. Law firms should ensure an ‘appropriate ratio of work carried out and commercial significance’ – Heusch believes not all work has to be done by the partner.
Shoe retailer Deichmann has over 33,000 employees and a turnover of €4.5bn. The long established company, founded in 1913, has converted its legal status into a SE in 2010, an idea whose roots can be traced back to general counsel Martin Heynen: ‘It was his idea to convert the legal status from GmbH & Co. KG to Deichmann SE and he was the one in charge of the entire project’, say observers full of praise. Heynen is known as being a ‘confidant’ to CEO Heinrich Otto Deichmann, a status that surely partly stems from his ‘outstanding corporate and commercial capabilities’. Not surprising, when describing Heynen, it is mostly his ‘discretion and tact’ that are singled out as two prominent character traits.
One of the particular challenges in Sonja Hilge’s role at Merck is the particular ‘mix of globally operating DAX30 company and Darmstadt-based family business’, a combination that ensures ‘exciting legal challenges’. Merck has 38,000 employees, 9,000 just in Darmstadt, and operates in 66 countries worldwide through its 191 subsidiaries. Part of Hilge’s responsibility is also providing strategic M&A project advice. A particular success has been her finance-related work, with one highlight being a €15bn debt issuance programme. It is therefore a continuous challenge to ‘thoroughly handle several ongoing large scale projects next to the day to day business’. Law firms should ‘focus on practical aspects’ and have a clear understanding of the fact that ‘law firm and in-house team are in the same boat’.
At UBS Investmentbank, Holger Hirschberg is in charge of the bank’s corporate finance business, particularly providing legal advice in IPOs, capital increases, mergers and take overs. His role continuously exposes him to large scale transactions, many of which receive significant media attention. Recent career highlights were advising (on behalf of UBS) on the public takeover of GSW Immobilien by Deutsche Wohnen in 2013, the largest German takeover of a real estate company, as well as on Telefónica’s IPO in 2012 with an issue volume of €1.45bn. He particularly values variety in his work: ‘No two IPOs bring up the same questions as the constellation of issuer, shareholders, issue volume and the respective jurisdictions is never the same’. He believes that a vital part of his success is to ‘understand the IPO candidate’s business and to closely coordinate with the auditors’. Law firms should have incredible project management: ‘particularly during complex transactions, a law firm can score points here’.
Even though Thomas Jamrath, senior legal counsel at Siemens, is not based in the Munich head office is he able to masterfully stir and direct things from Berlin. Observers note how he ‘has set up a European network of procurement lawyers and emerged as the go-to person for all public procurement matters’. This has not been an easy task in a company with 370,000 employees. But Jamrath has his fans who are certain that he will be able to ‘significantly raise the status and importance of procurement law and tendering procedure participations within the company’. The market watches these promising efforts closely as other companies usually ‘focus similar efforts on the areas of antitrust or compliance’.
At Starbucks, Joana Johannsen adopts a clear approach: she recognises that there are topics that require outside counsel, but she has clearly identified these matters and has ‘overall drastically reduced the costs for external advisors’. She simultaneously took the initiative to transform the in-house department ‘into a business partner that is routinely involved at an early stage by all other departments’. Part of this strategy is the relentless training and education of her team, among others by offering the opportunity and provide encouragement to join associations such as the BUJ (Federal Association of Corporate Counsel). Looking back on 15 years in the industry she can recount numerous highlights, however, Johannsen’s definition of success is ‘being able to improve the cooperation between the legal department and other business units’, with the goal of ‘transforming the legal department into an advisor that is consulted early-on as a true business partner and that is on par with other departments’. There are daily challenges of a very different nature but one of the recurring themes is the challenge to ‘explain the German and European law to our US headquarters’, particularly regarding data protection, employment and industrial constitution law. Law firms should deliver ‘commercial legal judgements that can be forwarded to other employees without needing further explanation’.
Joachim Kaffanke is able to handle ‘extremely complex transactions under immense time pressure’. His employer KION is (after Toyota) the world’s second biggest manufacturer of forklifts and storage technology and European market leader. KION has had a turbulent recent past which created a range of challenging situations for Kaffanke. In 2012 when Weichai took over 25 percent of the company, Kaffanke led the negotiations with the Chinese investor, resulting in the largest inbound investment of a Chinese company in Germany to date, with peers complimenting Kaffanke on his ‘outstanding work’. The 2013 IPO has been another milestone, again requiring legal guidance on complex matters. Overall, one of Kaffanke’s career highlights was the successful management of ‘this extremely critical takeover situation with interests of major stake holders that did not match’. He particularly enjoys the ‘freedom to create, something that restructuring situations inevitably bring with them’ and the ‘development of bespoke government structures’. To him, a key task in his role is to ‘find, win and develop legal talent’. Law firms should ‘optimise efficiency’ particularly regarding ‘the size of the team and the experience of individual team members’.
At SGL Carbon, a carbon products manufacturer, the day to day legal business is carried out in-house, even though the company has 40 plants in Europe, North America and Asia as well as subsidiaries in over 100 countries and its shares have been listed at Deutsche Börse’s MDAX since 1995. Not surprising, Kamper values his work because of its ‘variety of topics’ which enables him to ‘personally initiate and direct things’. A particular challenge in a globally operating company where most of the work is done in-house is the ever changing nature of arising matters which also requires to constantly incorporate international aspects into the legal work. Outside counsel ‘should listen more closely’ as it is ‘external expertise coupled with organisational insights which guarantees the successful completion of projects’.
Markus Kaum impresses as head of legal at Munich RE, particularly his ‘strength to innovate and his courage to leave the beaten path for the benefit of his company’. Observers note that ‘the CEO and the board of directors have full confidence in him’. Kaum has coupled the legal advice regarding stock market law, finance and data protection with commercial and organisational aspects and even ‘set up entire teams within the relevant departments’ while ‘aligning legal services with commercial goals’. A particular highlight has been the implementation of the first cross-border merger of listed companies under the new MgVG legislation (Mitbestimmung der Arbeitnehmer bei einer grenzüberschreitenden Verschmelzung), which regulates employee rights of participation in decision making in such a situation. The merger made it possible for Munich RE to remain a listed company while at the same time further develop and globalise its worker’s representation agreements, changes that have been ‘welcomed by the unions’. Kaum’s company has been the first in Germany to renegotiate these terms and conditions with workers under the new law, a particular challenge. Kaum believes corporate counsel have to be able to cover a multitude of matters: They have to ‘grasp the details of a project’s commercial goals, analyse the various interests of all parties involved and develop a flawless, legally sound and, if possible, elegant solution’. He particularly enjoys ‘being the first one to try something new’. Law firms should ‘organise teams according to expertise and efficient team leadership while having a clear understanding of our business’.
In a company with a €3bn turnover and over 5,000 employees, it is Matthias Kettschau’s particular goal, to ‘get a deep understanding of the company’s operations’ and for the legal department to be ‘part of a cross-sector team rather than act as internal advisor’. It is a given for him to attend meetings jointly with other departments as soon as employment law issues are involved. Highlights have been the successful integration of 1,200 employees into one of the company’s subsidiaries in 2008 as well as recent negotiations and the contract signing regarding a new company wide tariff as part of a modified implementation of the ERA (Entgeltrahmenabkommen der Metall- und Elektroindustrie), the tariff agreement of the metal and electrical industry in 2012. A particular challenge in the transition from law firm to in-house in his view is being able to let go of ‘the habitual focus on legal matters in the context of a mandate’ and to instead focus on ‘finding a comprehensive solution that incorporates all of the company’s departments’. He values the ability of a corporate counsel to design and implement structures over a longer period of time, something that ‘is hardly ever possible when working for a law firm’. From external advisors, he expects the ability to understand ‘a company’s particular structure and vibe which all have some bearing on the advice needed’. Many firms have a ‘very strong focus on the academic quality of the advice and not on the question how it can be put into practice’.
Helge Köhlbrandt is highly regarded for his ‘absolutely outstanding management of the currently largest antitrust proceeding in Germany’, a great achievement and not an easy task given the enormous media attention. But he has also made significant changes internally such as repositioning the legal department which now works ‘more closely with our business partners and is therefore able to deliver tailor-made and solution-oriented advice’. What this results in is ‘inevitably prevention-oriented legal advice rather than advice focusing on disputes and problematic cases’. However, the major challenge which he has successfully overcome, has been achieving a change in terms of ‘mindset’. His success is also based on his dedicated focus on coaching and personnel development. Köhlbrandt wants to work with law firms that ‘understand our business and its individual entities and deliver commercial and pragmatic advice’.
Gerlinde Krieger is group legal counsel at Scandlines, a German-Danish shipping company that carries 20 million passengers and 4 million cars annually. Krieger’s team is based in Germany and Denmark, however, prior to her joining in 2003, a legal department as such did not exist. Masterfully and relentlessly has she built the department since then, step by step. One of these steps has been implementing an archiving system for documents, accessible from all over the world, containing 20,000 documents and makes it possible to search for and produce reports of particular types of documents according to specific criteria. ‘We cannot imagine how legal departments can reply quickly and thoroughly to specific questions without such a system’. She also emphasises the importance of variety in terms of recruitment. ‘Corporate counsel are scarcely able to answer detailed accounting questions which is why we have hired employees with backgrounds in a variety of subject areas, our biggest strength’. Particular challenges in her career so far have been several M&A projects but what she underlines is another achievement: ‘The legal department has been a highly valued partner in every phase of the company’s legal transformation from a government owned entity to an efficient group of companies’. Krieger enjoys in her role working for a shipping company the ‘broad range of matters, from solving complex corporate matters until getting wet feet when checking in with employees on site’. Law firms she successfully works with have to understand that ‘corporate counsel don’t have time to read Federal Court rulings word by word. We need clear opinions’.
Bayerische Landesbank has had an eventful recent past. The initial plan developed by the Bavarian State Government had been to privatise the bank, however, this plan was abandoned as the EU Commission pushed for a restructuring solution as the way forward; the Commission’s state aid procedures completed in 2012. As legal counsel to BayernLB, Karl-Heinz Kronawitter has had to face a multitude of challenges, among them air carrier Aero Lloyd’s insolvency, one of the bank’s holding companies, a case that entailed ‘complex insolvency, tactical and strategic issues’. Kronawitter has also been instrumental in several domestic and foreign high-volume structured financings, PPP financings such as the Elbphilharmonie project in Hamburg, and high-volume real estate portfolio financings. One of his key goals apart from carrying out the day to day work is to ‘support less experienced colleagues so that they are able to deal with matters quickly, solution-oriented and deliver work that is of instant use to non-lawyers’. Key here in his view is to ‘determine commercial goals and translate them into legal and contractual terms’. External lawyers should ‘not only moderate but clearly express their views in negotiations, just as in-house counsel at times have to give recommendations while on partly unfamiliar terrain’.
Rainer Kuhn is highly regarded in the market for setting up from scratch a ‘very efficient and competent team with a clear structure and segregation of duties’. Ceramic goods manufacturer Villeroy & Boch was founded in 1748 but nowadays the company operates in an ‘incredibly fast changing market’, say observers, who also note that Kuhn and his team are able to ‘handle this situation in an excellent manner’. This includes the successful management of large scale transactions such as the acquisition of production plants, divestments and restructurings, while Kuhn identifies a legal department’s core competences as being corporate, IP, commercial and compliance. Areas that require a high degree of specialism are ‘predestined for outsourcing’. Law firms should ‘work with key account managers who ensure the knowledge transfer between firm and client’.
Till von Kutzschenbach is a corporate and insurance specialist, a significant role within a legal department that now comprehensively handles all D&O and E&O insurance matters after these had been transferred to the department. The legal team therefore now is ‘not only getting involved when complex issues or even disputes arise but is able to offer a full service’. A particular career highlight in 2013 was BayernLB’s sale of GBW group to a consortium led by Patrizia Alternative Investments, a transaction via bidding procedure that took place within a framework of EU legislations that had to be met, the company’s interests and political interests, a situation Kutzschenbach mastered. He enjoys working ‘directly at the intersection of legal and commercial’. In his experience, law firms would be able to ‘reduce time consuming, preparatory background research by associates if the partner was more involved’.
Nils Lavista-Wiesch has instigated significant and wide-reaching changes in his role at Callax Telecom, a telecoms company that presents itself as a cheaper alternative to existing providers. From what he describes
as a ‘rudimentary legal department’ that has primarily been dealing with ‘the coordination of legal queries’ and mostly carried out ‘subject matter research before handing over to external counsel’, the department now ‘actively manages and carries out legal proceedings and contract design wherever possible’. But his work at Callax features a range of other aspects as Callax is not only a telecoms company but also owns energy provider Stromio and gas supplier gas.de: a particular challenge as all these companies operate in highly regulated markets. But Lavista-Wiesch has not only been able to restructure the legal department but also counts a number of successful court proceedings among his achievements, matters that by settling have ‘stopped anti-competitive methods and reorganised the market environment’.
Björn Ley heads an international team of lawyers and has successfully achieved a ‘deeper understanding and implementation of our business partner concept’, which in concrete terms means that legal is ‘not only a support function for our business, but a partner in the decision making process, even when it comes to non-legal issues’. Key here is to ‘advise on all matters of risk management, highlight – not only legal – risks early-on and develop solutions’. Highlights for Ley are therefore projects where he worked with a team of technical, commercial and legal staff during the negotiation phase, while a particular challenge in this context was to quickly grasp new areas of law or foreign legal frameworks. He enjoys ‘jointly with the management, finding solutions for issues that often are only marginally legal issues’. Law firms should always consider ‘the respective recipient of their work’. He regards it as crucial to distinguish between ‘purely legal statements and documents that are being used by management to make decisions’. The latter require ‘clear summaries without lengthy disclaimers’.
When describing Peter Macheiner, observers mostly use two adjectives: ‘determined’ and ‘committed’. He heads the legal department at synlab, a company that provides laboratory services in 25 jurisdictions in Europe and the Middle East and with 7,000 employees. The outstanding lawyer, who in his free time enjoys the challenge of a cycling marathon, does not only head the legal department but has built and structured it from the very beginning. A highlight in his career has been a large scale project across departments where he ‘bridged the gap between legal advice and legal management on the one hand and motivating employees from a variety of departments to give more than their very best on the other hand’. A particular challenge for any in-house counsel is ‘to break down complex legal issues in a basic manner that focuses on commercial aspects’. His work brings the daily challenge to work ‘in a variety of jurisdictions in a wide range of legal areas’. Law firms should ‘put even more emphasis on the underlying commercial drivers’.
dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur is the largest German press agency with a presence in 100 countries around the world. Jan Mahler’s department has initially been part of the personnel and HR department but has now shifted its focus to the comprehensive coverage of media law matters, in close cooperation with the distribution team regarding contract and copyright law and particularly in close cooperation with the editorial team. ‘Thanks to this shift we are able to resolve a wide range of issues prior to our current media coverage or we are able to work closely with editorial in parallel to the ongoing news production’. A win for Mahler is when the legal department has been able to ‘find solutions and ways of formulating things that particularly with legally tricky topics ensure a mostly unrestricted but legally bulletproof reporting – and then to realise that other media have adopted our approach.’
Agnieszka Mögelin-Zinger is a legal counsel in E.ON’s M&A team in Düsseldorf but regularly draws on resources worldwide when working on projects. This international outlook is not surprising for an energy company that has a global turnover of over €130bn. In her role Mögelin-Zinger works closely with the commercial M&A team and designs and steers transactions from the very beginning. A particular career highlight has been the entry in the Turkish market, for the company a very significant step which was successfully completed within a period of months; ‘a highlight from a legal and cultural perspective’. A particular challenge for the legal M&A team is to centrally manage and direct transactions, involving heads of various departments around the globe. ‘What is required is diplomacy and pragmatism; you cannot reach the project team with pure legal speech’. She advises her company on its global M&A projects and is also involved in ‘questions as to if and why we should invest or de-invest somewhere’. Law firms have to ‘consider the commercial implications of every single legal issue’. A memo ‘without price tags and clear recommendations has almost no value’. But in-house counsel have to do their part. She does not, for example, give assignments on Friday, but instead waits until Monday as ‘avoiding weekend work has led to a clear increase in quality’.
Jörg Mucke has led Sal. Oppenheim’s legal department since 2010, a particular career highlight and major task at a long established bank, founded in 1789 as private bank (and since 2009 a Deutsche Bank subsidiary). Mucke has since then successfully reshuffled areas of responsibility and refocused the department on its core competency, legal advice. Administrative and operational tasks have been reduced and tasks that are overall not primarily legal have been transferred to the relevant business units. Apart from this organisational challenge, Mucke has had to assume responsibility for the general legal and supervisory law issues the bank is facing; he has also been instrumental in providing legal counsel on the bank’s reorganisation after its takeover by Deutsche Bank. A task he has mastered successfully and he enjoys ‘to continuously evaluate new issues and matters’. Law firms have to provide ‘fewer long legal statements but instead brief, succinct advice’.
Three years ago, Frank Müller had the task of setting up the legal department of real estate company IVG Institutional Funds from scratch, a challenge he has overcome by focusing on ‘operating exactly as the big law firms do: pro-actively, service- and solution-oriented’. Particular career highlights were the company’s major deals, among them Silberturm, Gallileo, Prime-Portfolio and Angerhof, all of which have received significant media attention. The ‘handling of a wide range of tasks with a very small team’ is a daily challenge which is why law firms have to take off time pressure, that is to ‘reduce and not produce work’ and give ‘clear recommendations instead of writing long and expensive memos’.
Since 2010 Udo Müller has been in charge of the entire EMEA region and heads a team of 21 lawyers in nine locations, while the team size has almost tripled since he joined. A significant structural change has been the introduction of the contract manager role, ‘colleagues who are qualified lawyers and who focus on the design and drafting of our contracts’; a response to the ‘ever increasing number and complexity of contracts in recent years’. He also opted for splitting tasks and transferring them to teams of specialists as ‘we were unable to cover all matters with the existing model’. These subject area teams have been set up for the areas of public sector, employment law, immigration law, data protection and IP as well as M&A, while each team features members from several regions. Müller has been instrumental in the team’s continuous growth across locations: ‘Just recently we have strengthened our team in Africa to meet the increased demand in the region’. A continuous challenge however is finding the balance between various interests and the search for viable solutions within the EMEA team. ‘Colleagues with various cultural and legal backgrounds, among them from South Africa, Sudan, Dubai, Europe, and Russia, have to reach conclusions within a short time’. Partly due to these complexities and the resulting time pressure he expects external advisors to deliver solutions that are ‘also usable by non-lawyers’, that is ‘explanations that can be forwarded to the relevant departments if necessary’.
Andreas Neumann has been receiving praise from all sides for his ‘successful set-up of a worldwide, integrated team of lawyers’, which, according to observers, has mastered ‘incredibly complex and commercially vital challenges’. Since 2011 Neumann has been Boehringer Ingelheim’s group general counsel and in charge of legal and compliance worldwide. He brings to the table a wide range of in-house experience, recently working as general counsel at GE Healthcare EMEA. This tremendous experience is one of the reasons for his success in a company with a turnover of €14.6bn and 45,000 employees globally. As Germany’s biggest pharmaceutical company, Boehringer Ingelheim operates in over 100 countries and has lawyers in Europe, the US and Asia. Neumann heads a team of 250, more than half of which are lawyers, while he can rely on his global leadership team consisting of 13 direct reports. The mere structuring of such a department is in itself a challenge, which Neumann has met by, among other measures, globally introducing a Business Partnering Competency Model which ensures that ‘employees can gain the right skills not only in terms of technical knowledge but also regarding leadership skills’. But Neumann is always looking ahead – he has developed the ‘Legal Roadmap 2025’. ‘It deals with the question what legal will look like at Boehringer Ingelheim in 2025’. All of this is of course being handled next to the day to day business, most recently large scale product liability lawsuits in the US. Overall Neumann perceives as the biggest challenge for any corporate counsel to ‘successfully operate within the sometimes tensed field of business partner and company guardian’.
Georg Nolte works for a company that is regularly in the spotlight and frequently subject to (or indeed active part of) legislative developments which are of significant relevance to the general public. One example has been last year’s performance protection legislation covering publishing houses (Leistungsschutzrecht für Presseverlage) which Google in parts objected to. The issue under scrutiny has been the question of whether search engine providers should be liable to pay royalties to publishers for displaying search results. ‘For four years we have been voicing our concerns – resulting not in the prevention, but a major modification of the law’. Apart from that, he sets the standard to continuously educate himself about crucial legal issues on a more academic level which he regards as ‘immensely important’. Nolte often follows legal trends over a very long period of time and observes how they ‘continuously develop and how answers and solutions sometimes only emerge after decades’. One example is the area of freedom of speech which poses ‘complex and to date unresolved problems such as how to deal with critical and partly anonymously posted content in blogs or as reviews’. With regards to many of these issues Google is acting as a trend setter that is involved in major legal proceedings. ‘I feel that my work contributes to finding solutions for issues that are relevant to society as a whole which greatly motivates me’. When working with law firms he insists they should be open to criticism, however, he also encourages lawyers to point out if something goes wrong. ‘I feel that there is some reluctance’.
For over 20 years Ekkehart Orth has been legal counsel to DekaBank Deutsche Girozentrale, Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe’s security division. The bank has 4,000 employees and administers funds amounting to €172bn. Orth is in charge of all matters pertaining to investment funds and the market is full of praise for ‘his almost unique experience in terms of both its exceptionally broad range and its length’. Apart from countless large scale real estate transactions, he has also been key in resolving a range of real estate and investment law matters and cases. Whoever works with him realises from the very first moment that ‘again and again, with every new case, he takes a particular interest in it and displays incredible commitment’. ‘A lawyer to the core’.
Mondelēz is (after Nestlé and PepsiCo) the world’s third biggest food producer with 110,000 employees all over the world, clients in over 155 countries and a $35bn turnover. A legal counsel working in the trade mark department of such a corporation faces a multitude of challenges, but of particular importance, above all else, is for senior counsel (trade marks) Jan Otto ‘never to be satisfied with a simple no’. He advocates an advisory approach that explores options and modifications which could reduce risk. His definition of the corporate counsel role is: ‘the in-house counsel has to become a business partner’. A rewarding challenge is the opportunity to work in a globally operating trade mark department that enables him to give advice in a multitude of countries and in the context of diverse cultural backgrounds. ‘Great communication skills and flexibility’ are always required. He says law firms have to internalise the client’s commercial environment, overall firms are ‘too conservative in their risk assessment and neglect exploring options of risk reduction’. Otto asks for ‘more creativity and a more commercial approach’.
As head of legal of German Soccer League DFL (Deutsche Fußball Liga) Jürgen Paepke is rated as ‘certainly one of the key figures in German sports law’, but is also highly regarded internationally. He recently successfully negotiated and sold a package of DFL’s international screening rights for Premier League games to Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox which purchased rights for 80 countries starting with the 2015/16 season. Not only is Paepke a ‘distinguished sports law expert’, including topics such as TV rights, sponsoring, compliance and employment law, but he also has ‘numerous reliable national and international contacts inside and outside the sports domain’ and ‘longstanding experience with the negotiation of high-volume sports contracts’. The market’s view is that he has stamped his mark on the sports law industry by drafting concepts and developing regulations, among others regarding the areas of stadium security and ticketing. Among his particular achievements are the drafting of standard texts which have in large parts served as blue print for countless international football leagues. Paepke has ‘significantly influenced the development of international sports law’, say peers.
Holger Pittroff is serving as legal counsel to Porsche and sets himself apart thanks to his high degree of ‘flexibility and solution-orientation’, say admirers. These seem crucial character traits in his position of responsibility in a company that is frequently the centre of media attention. Since 2008 has he been growing the legal department at the car manufacturer which operates as a listed investment company. The creation of an integrated Porsche and VW company has attracted particular media attention, a task that could only be completed after a period of several years and which has been consistently posing new challenges for the in-house department. However, Pittroff states that it is precisely this ‘demanding international work in a team’ which he enjoys.
d&b audiotechnik is a manufacturer of loudspeakers and amplifiers with subsidiaries in Europe, the US, Japan, China, Singapore and Korea. Robert Pomes, who has dual qualifications as lawyer and MBA, has particularly intensified the interaction with external advisors and fostered the knowledge exchange between specialists within the firm. Key for him has been to replace the ‘passive waiting for assignments’ with ‘pro-active involvement’. A particular highlight has been the restructuring of the company’s global distribution system as well as handling crackdowns in China. His role is to lead project teams, but notably his ‘assignment is not to take legal action against individual imitators in China but to cost-effectively and efficiently reduce the number of imitators in the long run’. Pomes also heads the company’s compliance teams.
Michael Prüßner is rated as a ‘clearly exceptional lawyer’ who has amassed ‘expert knowledge in a wide range of specialist fields but who never loses sight of the big picture’. The market attests to his ‘extremely rare capability to evaluate at first glance seemingly less exciting legal topics, realise their commercial potential’ while always acting ‘strategically and tactically smart’. However, he is also able to ‘favour a well-argued opinion that is different from his own’. One of the particular career highlights and challenges when working for the apparel company has been to ‘create a legal department out of nothing’, he says, as prior to his joining all legal matters had been handled externally. He has also set up databases for IP law, real estate and contract administration and drastically reduced the fees for external counsel. He has seen through legal proceedings up until their successful completion, with Federal Court and even European Court of Justice rulings. Exciting projects are the ‘development of a future-oriented IP strategy for the globally operating group of companies’ but what he enjoys most is that ‘you can never know in the morning what will happen during the day, but it has to be solved, worldwide, 24/7’.
In his legal department, Markus Ratz focuses not only on its legal function but also on every team member’s role as ‘business enabler’ whenever possible. Working in a legal department of a company that is an active financial market player has not been easy over the years but Ratz has successfully ‘steered the company through a large number of new and tighter regulatory requirements’, a legally complex and multi-faceted task which requires to enter new territory on a daily basis. An internal challenge has been to ‘overhaul and restructure our panel’ while his role allows him to ‘actively design processes with a high degree of autonomy’. Law firms should act ‘transparently, from the very beginning’ and be prepared to ‘acknowledge when things go wrong’.
Marcel Ritter’s role at Telefónica Germany, a telecoms company with over 25 million customers, has been marked by several significant challenges over the past few years which at the same time were highlights from a legal point of view. Among them has been the merger with and integration of HanseNet Telekommunikation with preceding outsourcing and restructuring measures, including the respective works council negotiations and redundancy programmes, as well as the merger of the three legal departments of O2, Telefónica Deutschland and Hansenet. In 2012 the company successfully completed its IPO, the largest at the Frankfurt stock exchange since 2007, amounting to €1.45bn. But challenges never cease to arise in Marcel Ritter’s role and he currently is providing legal advice on the ongoing takeover of competitor E-plus.
Eric Romba is legal counsel at bsi which is an association representing the interests of companies that administer assets and whose business is directly related to the German capital investment law code. In his role, Romba can look back on several significant achievements such as providing legal advice on the directive on Alternative Investment Fund Managers (AIFM) as well as its implementation in Germany. ‘We have achieved the inclusion of significant amendments, both on European and domestic level, such as preventing a sales ban of open and closed public funds, an increase of the maximum debt financing quota from 30 to 60 percent and the introduction of alternative custodian options apart from depositary banks’. His work brings challenges in a complex market environment such as the ‘transition of an entire sector, the managers of closed funds, from a partly regulated market into fully regulated capital market’, and all this in volatile economic times. Beyond this part of his role is to ‘convince of the opportunities this regulation brings, and that they outweigh the risks’. His function is varied due to the ‘crossover of legal advice, communication tasks and the political networks involved’. Law firms should not engage in ‘lengthy and academic discussions’ and instead of saying ‘no, it’s not possible’, develop concrete suggestions for ways of how it might work’. Crucial is to stick to ‘clear points of view and voice an opinion even if it is not a popular one’.
Michael Rummer heads the legal and insurance department at EnBW, a listed energy provider and after E.ON and RWE Germany’s third biggest with 20,000 employees and a turnover of over €19bn. Rummer has kept the department organised in subject matter expert teams but increased the ‘focus on adding value to the company’ and emphasised the cultivation of legal management skills which he understands as the ‘steering and directing of projects and external lawyers’. Highlights were high volume restructuring matters that were covered entirely in-house, but also complex M&A projects which are a regular occurrence for Rummer. A particular challenge is the ‘management of employees’, but he enjoys being provided with the ‘opportunity to creatively design and structure’. Law firms have to ensure ‘growth in terms of capacity to maintain the service’.
Catlin Europe, a provider of commercial and industrial insurance and reinsurance solutions, only set up its legal department with Petra Scheida joining in 2008, while Catlin Europe operates as one of six regional centres of Catlin group. When structuring the legal department she particularly sought to implement an ‘active and creative approach’ as well as ‘well-founded knowledge of the company’s ways of operating’. To actively ask and create is particularly crucial during projects with ‘marginal legal aspects’ such as currently the implementation of a comprehensive receivables management for all payment methods and all Continental European locations. A particular success has been the corporate restructuring of the company’s Continental European hub. Previously associated companies in France, Switzerland, Austria and Spain were directed from Cologne which significantly ‘increased the corporate law work, compared to branches’. This is why she supported a rethinking, which finally took place. After 2008 ‘the company only grew further by setting up branches, while existing associated companies were integrated’. The final step has been the transformation into a SE simultaneously in eight countries, a particular challenge for Scheida. ‘It has overall been a legally and logistically demanding transaction’; however, she enjoys to ‘guide interdisciplinary projects’. She says law firms should always ask themselves ‘if their work creates additional value’. If something goes wrong, ‘I highly value if this is being recognised’.
Novartis, since 2012 the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, is subject to all issues arising out of the tender procedures for patented medicine rebate contracts, both in the area of generic drugs and vaccines – a major legal challenge. Not surprising, Andreas Schillack, as country head of legal and compliance, has over the past years been involved in ‘nearly every significant and landmark tendering and review proceedings’, while observers point out that under his guidance his company has been ‘the only pharmaceutical company that has reacted with a long-term strategy to the tender procedures of public health funds’. Internally he has particularly been advocating the ‘increased function of the legal and compliance team as strategic business partner’ that ‘develops a focus on pro-active advice, well beyond the mere solving of current problems’. Notable highlights in his career have been the successful defence against law suits which were directed against some of the company’s most vital pharmaceutical patents, as well as the ‘setting up, structuring and strengthening of legal and compliance function in a national and international context’. He enjoys tackling ‘numerous legal structuring options in a commercial context and develop solutions’. Lawyers are being actively incorporated into the team and the business ‘to guarantee bespoke advice’. ‘Both sides need to be prepared to take this step’.
Stefan Schmidt works in the legal department of German Football Association DFB (Deutscher Fußball-Bund), an unusual employer which operates as an association representing its 6.8 million members. Within the legal department he is in charge of ‘commercial and business-related matters the DFB is facing as the world’s largest sports association representing one sport’. He, as much as his colleagues in the tight-knit legal department, understands his role as being an ‘all-rounder with distinct expertise in sports law related matters’, among them matters such as the marketing and organisation of sports events. Only if very specific issues arise, for example antitrust matters, does the team consult external counsel. So far his career highlight has been providing ‘legal advice regarding the FIFA World Cup 2006 in Germany’, but also his long list of published work underlines Schmidt’s specific expertise in international large scale sports events and his focus on data protection in the sports sector.
Jürgen Schneider works for a biotech company with over 30 subsidiaries in more than 20 countries and in a market environment that is clearly marked by its competitiveness. Peers are full of praise for how Schneider has managed to ‘ideally position his company while at the same time handling complex patent proceedings and negotiate favourable licensing agreements’. He is overall rated as ‘excellent manager and top notch lawyer’. The IP and IP litigation team is based in three locations in Europe and the US and not part of the legal department but in business development, a set up which aims at increasing commercial awareness with team members. ‘Patent disputes are always looked at in terms of business case and IP is an integral part of acquisitions’. The close integration into business development ‘allows us to consider patent aspects early on and intensively during M&A projects’. Another commercially driven approach is the lowering of internal costs by carrying out research into the current state of technology or the analysis of patent areas. ‘These documents are then being used for a patent law analysis which is mostly done in-house’. A particular success has been a major acquisition with unclear patent situation after which ‘we were able to introduce the product to the market, free of patent lawsuits brought by third parties, all that by using a combination of proceedings and negotiations’. An ongoing challenge is working in a complex legal field with international projects that is marked by its rapidly changing framework due to rulings by the European Court of Justice and the US Supreme Court, while at the same time another goal is to become ever more efficient. Schneider particularly values creative work. ‘A lawyer who cannot offer alternatives has no chance in the long run’. Lawyers are also part of strategic decisions and not only ‘service provider but part of our team’.
Since 2012, Allianz, the world’s largest insurance company, have handled all employment law matters exclusively in-house, ‘unless a dispute is subject to appeal’ explains Schönwerth. The division of duties between the legal department and her area (Legal and Works Council EU) is strict – while the legal department covers all areas except employment law, Schönwerth is in charge of employment matters globally. A particular highlight has been the implementation of the European employee participation at the company. ‘This has been entirely new ground for us as we were among the first companies to carry out an SE transformation and in this context to establish a European works council’. In his day to day job, the ever increasing ‘legal and regulatory requirements both domestically and internationally’ pose challenges. However, this requires to tackle novel situations and ‘to find appropriate solutions without relying on existing knowledge is exciting’.
Stefan Schulz ensures that the US pharmaceutical company’s legal department ‘is involved in strategic business processes early-on to actively structure them instead of reacting to them’. Not surprising, past career highlights fit this approach perfectly. Schulz successfully led negotiations with the Association of Public Health Insurance Funds, has successfully implemented innovative contracts with health insurers and keeps an eye on the ‘legal and contractual securing of innovative and novel business models in the area of tele medicine’. An ongoing challenge is to ‘again and again develop innovative legal models, be it for tariff negotiations, contracts or business cases’. It is his declared goal to ‘incorporate the legal department as much as possible in the operational business’. Law firms have to be able to ‘structure complex legal situations in a brief and practicable way’ in light of the increasing cost pressure on legal departments.
Skandia Lebensversicherung offers insurance products linked to funds, has over 360,000 customers and administers a total amount of €12.4bn, while the Swedish company operates through its subsidiaries in over 20 countries on four continents. Head of legal and compliance, Frank Senge has ‘significantly increased the amount of in-house advice’. Prerequisite for this is, however, a high degree of specialisation of employees in the company’s various departments, a shift he has successfully made. Now the company only pays for external advice ‘in case of specific questions or when a second opinion is required because a lot is at stake’. Overall this has resulted in a significant legal department cost reduction. He has also ensured that the legal department is routinely part of operative processes which ‘helps adopting a pragmatic approach when giving advice and gives the opportunity to influence matters early-on’. Particular highlights were the outsourcing of parts of the administration of existing insurance contracts to South Africa; ‘the only case where an outsourcing to non-EU location has been granted by the legislator’. Senge has also been in charge of setting up a cross-border holding structure for life insurance companies in Germany, Austria, Poland and Switzerland and has advised on the development and the later distribution of German life insurance policies in Hungary and Czech Republic. He enjoys being able to advise the board directly and expects of law firms to ‘focus on analysing the actual needs of advice’.
Beate Uhse is a listed company in the erotic and adult entertainment sector that operates in 15 European countries in the retail, online retail and online entertainment sectors with a turnover of €142m. The legal department covers all matters resulting from the company’s wide-ranging operations that pertain to a multitude of different legal fields. To meet these challenges Sitta has introduced ‘software that ensures processes are streamlined, both within the department and when working with the various departments’. Highlights have been the company’s capital increase in 2008, including prospectus drafting, and the handling and negotiation of comprehensive financing packages in 2007 and 2010. However, he also covers cross-border trade mark and competition disputes. ‘Particularly interesting are proceedings that help advance so far unresolved legal topics without definite legislation’, such as the European Court of Justice’s ruling regarding the search engine adword issue which tried to answer the question if it is permitted to buy a Google adword using another trade mark to eventually advertise own products. Sitta expects external advisors to react quickly when challenges arise, while remaining flexible; ‘just as we have to’.
Christina Sontheim boasts ‘particular legal, communicative and organisational skills’ and observers agree that she has been instrumental in her pro-active guidance of Tommy Hilfiger Group’s expansion not only in Germany, but also in Europe. At the same time she is able to ‘coordinate German legal matters with those of the European headquarters in the Netherlands’. Sontheim is head of legal at Phillips-Van Heusen (PVH), a US fashion company and owner of the brands Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein. In her role she oversees all trade mark matters but also other areas such as employment law and commercial and, observers note, has to constantly ‘deal with a major infringement issue across Europe’. She meets this challenge with her admirable ‘visionary foresight’ and has developed a step by step plan which includes market observation and prosecution measures and proves her ability to ‘handle large scale legal issues while taking into account commercial aspects and developing long term solution strategies’. Sontheim is overall ‘able to coordinate a wealth of different proceedings simultaneously’ and ‘to solve any legal issue in a structured manner’. She has also made significant changes to how the legal department works, among them the digitalisation of all files and the acceleration of all internal coordination. This she couples with a way of communicating that ‘enables non-lawyers to quickly grasp what are the legal challenges of a case’, she says. A good in-house counsel does not only have to be a good lawyer but ‘has to be a structured project manager, an emphatic mediator and manager’, she underlines. Law firms have to ‘take the time to phrase their findings in a clear and precise manner, anticipate potential questions and include answers to them and also make suggestions as to how to proceed that don’t only look good on paper’.
Erik Staebe is a highly regarded, ‘extremely intelligent lawyer’ who is ‘focused and business-oriented’. Since 2007, Staebe has led the regulatory department at Deutsche Bahn and is also in charge of all legal issues pertaining to rail, energy and telecoms regulatory matters, including antitrust and European law – an enormous task in a company with 300,000 employees and €39bn turnover. However, Staebe can boast significant experience and has been the one who built the regulatory management capability at the company from scratch, starting in 2005. He has adjusted the work of the department in two major areas: The department not only provides advice when asked, but has become a pro-active entity, and Staebe has grown the reach across European borders. ‘We were able to utilise the groundwork we had already done regarding German regulatory law and test it regarding its potential commercial opportunities for subsidiaries in other jurisdictions’. Highlights have been several proceedings won, among them the antitrust proceedings of the European Commission against DB Energie regarding allegedly inflated rail electricity prices. A major challenge has been the adjusting and implementing of the so-called ‘Konzernjuristenurteil’ of the Federal Administrative Court in 2010 which stipulates that DB AG’s legal department is not allowed to provide subsidiary DB Netz with comprehensive regulatory legal advice. Staebe has had the task of readjusting and restructuring the company’s regulatory management and to redefine the role of the regulatory law department. When working with law firms, external lawyers should be able ‘to realise the nature of the situation they are hired in: Does the client need legal advice, is it a matter of a second opinion, is an external lawyer required by law because of the nature of the matter or is it a problem of resources?’
Holtzbrinck Publishing Group is among Germany’s largest media companies and it has been partly Sascha Theißen’s responsibility to transform ‘the legal department from a purely M&A practice into an IP/IT full service department’. The list of other organisational changes is long, among them the strengthening of independent work, regularly retrospectives, and the implementation of Lunch & Learn, where lawyers regularly connect with other departments and the board, outside the company in an informal setting. Particular highlights have been building relationships to decision makers in the crucial area of digital business models. Theißen is strategically involved, particularly regarding ‘new business models, products and projects – from the first brainstorming up until implementation’. This is also where he can capitalise on his IT knowledge, commercial skills and interest in strategy and leadership. Law firms have to refrain from employing staff members who ‘only point out problems but don’t see solutions’.
Automotive supplier Meritor has 18,000 employees in 103 locations in 24 countries, making for a broad range of tasks for Hans-Michael Stracke. The market is impressed with the ‘remarkable calmness and thoroughness with which he handles complex matters’, how ‘quickly he grasps highly complex structures and issues’ and that in spite of all the jurisdictions, he ‘never loses the overview’. Observers state that he comes ‘really close to the ideal of a general counsel’. Hans-Michael Stracke believes that the legal department has to ‘pro-actively look for work that adds value instead of waiting for it’ and he also advocates bespoke training that ‘allows for interaction and observation and which are therefore one of the most effective tools of monitoring’. He demands of his team ‘strict project management for all work that cannot be completed within one week’ and ‘transparency regarding response times and approach’. He also never ceases to emphasise the ‘successful use of mediation as way of conflict solving’. External advisors should ‘actively seek to learn more about the client’s business’.
As head of employment law, Christian Vetter is situated at the intersection of employment, social and corporate law on the one side, and the various global and German Dow entities on the other side – a huge operative and strategic task which he covers single-handedly. Dow Deutschland has 5,500 employees which makes it the largest foreign subsidiary of US chemical company Dow Chemical, the second biggest after BASF. The market has been impressed by how he ‘always strikes the balance between German employee rights and US guidelines’. Overall he continuously ‘impresses with his amazing connection between practical matters and legislative foresight’. When organising the department, Vetter emphasises a focus on ‘quick and clear replies’ and a ‘pro-active approach regarding changing legal frameworks in Germany and Europe’. Highlights during his career have been the successful managing of restructurings with up to 2,500 affected employees and the implementation of global performance management systems, while the biggest challenge remains the ‘swift implementation of restructuring measures’.
Philipp Voet van Vormizeele is general counsel at Outokumpu, which is one of the world’s biggest stainless steel manufacturers. The legal department as such came only into existence in January 2013 after the merger of Outokumpu group and Inoxum group (the latter previously belonged to ThyssenKrupp). Prior to this merger, Philipp Voet van Vormizeele acted as head of legal and compliance of Inoxum group. Paramount when structuring the legal department has been a ‘strong focus on the operative business, marked by dedicated responsibilities of individual lawyers for certain parts of the business’; he has also introduced new tools to better control the cost of external counsel. Among his career highlights was Inoxum’s spin off from the ThyssenKrupp corporation and the subsequent integration into Outokumpu. After ThyssenKrupp in 2011 opted for withdrawing from the stainless steel business operation, three options were pursued simultaneously: IPO, spin off or sale. In light of this, Inoxum was set up as an independent company where Van Vormizeele advised on the carve-out and entire legal structuring of the group. In 2012 the sale to Outokumpu took place, only fully taking effect in 2013. A particular challenge prior to this transaction was the ‘timely creation of Inoxum group between May and September 2011’.
At Hochtief Solutions, the European business of the globally operating German construction company founded in 1873, Georg von Bronk has managed to ‘transform the legal department into a modern, service-oriented business unit’. 2013 was an eventful year for the company’s legal department, marked by a thorough restructuring of European activities. Observers are deeply impressed with how von Bronk has been guiding the company through ‘stormy and tricky times’. But his role has not been immune to change either: After heading Hochtief Solutions’ legal and risk governance department, which has been dissolved, von Bronk has been focusing, from April 2014, on his new role as general counsel at Hochtief. He is heading a team of 30 lawyers, with further legal counsel from the US and Asia reporting to him. Looking back, one of his major success stories has been restructuring the legal department, just after he took. ‘From a decentralised department that had been subject to heavy criticism and that was marked by high turnover emerged a powerful team that can handle large transactions and complex tasks which previously were dealt with by external counsel’. Particularly the creation of the so-called ‘expert career’ made this possible, a path that ‘next to a dedicated senior manager path emphasises additional, different perspectives to be pursued by employees, a system that later has been implemented company-wide’. What he enjoys most is the ‘achievement of the necessary mix of neat legal work and business-oriented approach’. Law firms should think over their personnel allocation, and instead of sending five lawyers rather ‘ensure that the internal communication is channeled through one person’.
Consumer goods producer Beiersdorf, a German household name, founded in 1882, boasts well-known trade marks such as Nivea and Tesa. Eberhard von Klinggräff looks back on 14 years at this company and is rated and well-known for his ‘excellent legal expertise and strong experience, paired with outstanding business acumen’. Not only is he ‘extraordinarily service- and solution-oriented’ but is also valued for his ‘extremely balanced personality’, with a sympathetic ear for employees and colleagues. Not surprising, many regard him as the driving force behind numerous strategic decisions and express admiration for his ‘technical abilities’.
Aesculap, founded in 1867, is a branch of the B. Braun corporation and manufactures medical devices and medical technology with a focus on surgery. Jens von Lackum’s team comprises attorneys at law and one patent attorney and one of his major daily challenges is to ensure strategic counteracting against competition and patent law violations and infringements, among them product piracy. Internally von Lackum has achieved a reduction of costs by insourcing, while at the same time ‘raising legal advice quality due to close cooperation with and commercial advice to business units’. Law firms he instructs should ‘take over responsibility by issuing clear recommendations as to how to proceed’.
Martin Wagener ‘effortlessly combines business acumen and legal skills’ which enables him to successfully master the complex task that is heading the global legal department of car manufacturer AUDI. He also boasts ‘extensive sector knowledge’, always ‘feeling the pulse of the time in a fast-changing technology environment’, say observers, who also attest to his ‘outstanding strategic foresight’. ‘His department owes a great deal of the company’s remarkable success to him.’ Wagener has ensured the relentless development of the legal department by implementing a streamlined set up and the effective use of innovative IT systems, a feature that ‘has become the legal department’s hallmark way beyond the company’. The ‘equally enthusiastic as well as infectious personality’ Wagener is in charge of a team of 70 lawyers and has improved team work significantly by implementing an electronic file storage system, accessible worldwide, and by setting up a knowledge management system (Wiki-Law). He has put particular emphasis on integrating and involving young lawyers in strategic decisions while intensifying working with young talents overall. Noteworthy career highlights have been his pioneering work in China at the beginning of the 90s, a feat that still earns him market recognition as someone who is ‘a global player and arguably one of the first ones to set up shop in China, establishing the benchmark for an entire industry’. Not surprising, Wagener particularly values the ‘design freedom the company grants to me’. External advisors cannot underestimate the value of ‘knowledge about the company, its employees, culture, products and processes’.
Giesecke & Devrient is an international technology company which has grown from banknotes, securities and passport printers to a smart cards and security solutions specialist. The company was founded in 1852 and now owns more than 50 subsidiaries globally. More than half of its 11,000 employees are based abroad. Market observers attest to head of legal Reinhard Warmke’s ‘very efficient and competent leadership of a legal department in an internationally operating corporation’. In his role he effectively ‘covers a broad range of legal areas without ever losing the overview’, and in the very sensitive banknote printing and payment systems sector he has managed in an extraordinary manner ‘to operate in a diversity of areas in a very skilful way’.
Axel Springer publishes, among others, newspapers Bild and Die Welt and has subsidiaries in France, Spain, Switzerland and Russia. The company is increasingly directing its attention to digital business and new business models, a development that entails changes in how Konrad Wartenberg’s legal department operates to support and influence this shift. Wartenberg emphasises the legal department’s need to ‘internalise that we have to turn our attention towards the future, to actively focus on these new business models when advising, and to hire talent with the respective skills’. Wartenberg has also made changes to how the department works, standardising work procedures by using templates and introducing a ‘4-eyes-principle because team work increases quality’. He has also reduced the number of external advisors to a small circle of firms. He enjoys core legal advisory work: ‘I don’t see myself only as the manager of a team of internal and external advisors; I work with the team on legal matters’.
Gordon Weber ‘operates extremely successfully and at the same time in a prudent and thoughtful manner’, remark observers. This approach might be one of the reasons why he managed to seamlessly merge the legal and patent department which now ‘in an impressive way contributes to enforce and implement IP and licensing initiatives’. At Schott, an international technology company developing and producing special glasses and materials for the past 130 years, Weber heads a team which includes patent attorneys and the way the department works is marked by its close cooperation with the compliance, IP, insurance and company safety departments. Weber has also successfully ‘brought together lawyers previously working separately in various regions and business units’. This internationalisation promotes the legal department’s growth in vital markets such as China, Brasil, and Russia, as well as the implementation of a cross-regional compliance management system. Particular career highlights were providing legal advice on the company’s withdrawal from the crystalline photovoltaics business with a turnover of €1bn in less than eight months in 2012, and setting up a company-wide compliance management system which not only covers topics such as antitrust and corruption but also work space and building security, environment protection matters and data protection. Weber sees a particular challenge in the ‘constant search of an ideal connection’ of the centralised legal department with the operative business units. External legal advisors should display ‘more entrepreneurial bravery’.
Hitachi Data Systems, founded in 1989, specialises in data storage solutions and operates as part of Japanese electronics and industrial machinery corporation Hitachi, employing over 6,000 staff globally and operating in over 100 countries. As senior legal counsel, Oliver Weiß has transferred decision power and accountability to the respective case officer, ‘merely checking results without micro-managing’. The biggest challenge has been to adopt a thoroughly global approach in a company that nowadays is mostly led from the US: ‘For a German lawyer this means implementing Anglo-Saxon legal concepts, and the IT sector does not take “impossible” for an answer – and all this under stringent allocation of available resources’. However, it is particularly this reduction of US legal terminology to commercially comparable results in Europe that Weiß perceives as an enjoyable challenge. In his role at Hitachi Data Systems he ensures the communicative cross-over between ‘utterly different teams from technology, service, finance and sales’. External advisors should ‘listen first, and then reply’, however, should absolutely alert in-house counsel if ‘a question is not clearly structured; misunderstandings can quickly become expensive’.
Market observers rate Marion Welp as ‘outstanding in-house counsel’, who is ‘highly respected for her excellent business acumen, legal advice and organisation skills’ as well as for her way of ‘settling all legal matters for her company’. Esprit is an international fashion company with subsidiaries in over 40 countries and more than 10,000 employees, and Marion Welp’s legal department consists of lawyers in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Düsseldorf. When Welp joined Esprit seven years ago, the department had two lawyers globally, both based in Hong Kong, and she therefore had to set up the entire European legal department from scratch. In her view, a legal department is made up of ‘always commercial, pragmatic lawyers, who pro-actively provide advice to the board’. To fuel this approach she has introduced annual global training sessions focusing on ‘how a lawyer manages to get out of the proverbial ivory tower’. Welp has made the department emerge from its rather isolated position: ‘As advisors, we now are present at every important meeting’. A particular success in her career has been the ‘consensual dissolution of Esprit’s North America business – within two months and below budget’.
Real estate company Corpus Sireo employs 560 staff in Germany and Luxembourg and administers retail and residential properties with a total value of €16.5bn. As Managing Director (HR and Legal Affairs), Bernd Wieberneit is a lawyer displaying ‘outstanding legal skills, who in legally and commercially complex situations manages to lead internal and external teams in a calm manner’, say observers. The market agrees that ‘his ability to judge quickly and the capability to make decisions in a pragmatic and efficient way’ have fuelled the company’s success. In his role, Wieberneit has initiated several structural changes, among them the introduction of target agreements as part of the pay package as well as goals for times of presence and training and legal meetings with the operational units on site. Previous career highlights include setting up the legal department, setting up new operational units domestically and abroad, and the challenge to gain permission for an innovative funds product; in his position, he particularly enjoys the freedom to shape and create things. External advisors should be ‘closer to their clients’.
Wacker Chemie is a globally operating chemical company, founded in 1914, that maintains 22 production sites in Europe, the US and Asia, and distributes its products in over 100 countries. In his role as senior legal counsel, Ralf Widmer supervises employees in China and Germany, and setting up of the entire China legal department has been one of his particular successes. Prior to this, China had been covered remotely from Germany, ‘logistically challenging and requiring the extensive use of external advisors’. Within three years, Widmer created a functioning, local legal department, which ‘comprehensively and independently handles the local business with a total volume of €800m’ and also ensures constant contact to Germany for all company-wide China-related matters. But Widmer has initiated further internal changes, among them the ‘training of employees to design bespoke contracts using a database of contractual modules’ and the resulting focus of the legal department on ‘special cases, large contracts and projects’. Not only has he studied international law, but also the Chinese language and Chinese law in China, leading to his focus on handling the company’s activities in China and its dealings with EU administrative bodies. He particularly enjoys ‘bridging the gap between business and law’. External advisors should keep an eye on ‘streamlined organisation and the consistent waiver of excessive security measures such as extensive coordination within the law firm’.
Globally operating technology company Linde counts over 56,000 staff and focuses on its core businesses gas and plant construction. The legal department consists of over 100 employees, among them attorneys at law, patent attorneys and compliance specialists. In his function, Solms Wittig transformed the legal department’s cluster structure into a regional and product driven structure, resulting in responsibilities allocated according to region or business unit. Wittig has also established expert groups overarching lines of reporting to facilitate international knowledge exchange and harmonise the approach and way of working. A particular success and confirmation has been the team’s motivation and approval. ‘There is a very keen willingness to go the extra mile’.
Adidas is the world’s second biggest sports equipment manufacturer, a market position that brings a variety of challenges for Christof Wolpert. He leads a team of attorneys, US patent lawyers, and patent engineers, having been the one in charge of setting up the nowadays very stable and punchy team in the first place: ‘When I arrived in 1999, adidas did not have a patent department at all’. Vital for the successful set up of the department has been ensuring ‘first rate communication with all other business parts dealing with legal matters within the company’. Contrary to many other large corporations, adidas’ patent department is not operating as part of the R&D department but reports directly to the general counsel. ‘This enables us to be directly involved in all major decisions’. Particular highlights have been the successful defence against various attacks by competitors, among them interim injunctions and law suits in Germany and the US. ‘Protecting the company against competitor’s attacks offers the opportunity to prove oneself’. A major challenge has been to ‘newly set up 75% of the entire team due to personnel changes right in the middle of a large law suit’, a situation Wolpert mastered and which resulted in a case won. He enjoys the variety of his work which includes patent registrations, clearance projects, litigation, trade mark related matters and contractual law, all within an international set up.
The financial institution Deutsche Pfandbriefbank is a Hypo Real Estate Holding subsidiary, which is supposed to privatise the bank by 2015, according to a ruling by the EU Commission. Therefore, Nils Wunderlich is part of a legal department that has been and will be facing a myriad of challenges. Part of this has been ‘transferring the strategically non-vital portfolio of HRE group to FMS Wertmanagement’, the so-called bad bank under the umbrella of the Federal Agency for Financial Market Stabilisation (Bundesanstalt für Finanzmarktstabilisierung), with assets totalling €175bn. Part of this challenge are several EU law proceedings and the ongoing legal advice of HRE group regarding its relation to FMS Wertmanagement and the Federal Government. Wunderlich knows by experience that ‘political expectations do not always coincide with HRE group’s commercial interests and we therefore have to develop a sustainable, legally sound compromise’. By way of support when dealing with these complex tasks, he expects of external advisors ‘quick replies to questions regarding foreign law, apart from high quality which should be a given’.
Michael Zeck’s team is in charge of all legal matters pertaining to SES’ German subsidiaries. SES is a global satellite operator with a fleet of 56 satellites. Being part of a relatively small legal department, Zeck is faced with a plethora of tasks and serves as the intersection between internal expert departments and external advisors, negotiating contracts, acting as compliance officer and data protection officer. Given the tight budget for external advisors, these tasks can only be carried out by ‘a qualified, competent and efficient team’. Zeck emphasises the legal department’s role as a ‘service provider within the company’, with lawyers acting as ‘solution-oriented enablers’. Particular career highlights have been launching the HD+ platform in 2009, which allows satellite users to watch free TV in HD quality for a service fee. ‘This was a complete novelty: To charge for a technologically higher quality free TV programme via satellite’ and that has consequently been marked by complex antitrust issues. Zeck has been in charge of contractual negotiations, a challenge particular in light of the fierce competition in the media sector. Here, the contractual concepts regarding end-users and the legal framework for secure and innovative data management ‘has set new standards’, recalls Zeck. But his gaze is directed towards the future: ‘New product additions such as internet-based services will provide exciting new legal topics’.
Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP
Milbank is delighted to have the opportunity to partner with The Legal 500 on the GC Powerlist Germany. We consider it vitally important that in-house counsel have the chance to share the experiences and challenges that German corporations are facing – and especially when conducting international work. The view at Milbank is that a law firm is only as good as the results it achieves for its clients. Demand for support on international projects is growing and the number of mergers and takeovers has recently risen again worldwide. In competitive markets such as Germany, success depends not only on a keen sense of the right opportunity, but also on the successful structuring of complex strategies.
Best solutions for each mandate are only possible if there is close collaboration between clients and law firms. To succeed at the highest levels, precision, flexibility and speed are essential factors. Fast interaction between client and outside counsel, coupled with strong relationships, provides the confidence, creativity and imagination through which the largest deals can come to fruition.
Milbank’s integrated practice is underpinned by a strong tradition of innovation and client service, which means that we always think with objectives of our clients as the primary driver. We constantly monitor our business offering and adapt to the needs of the market. We are proud that our clients are among the most sophisticated consumers of legal advice and services, and our approach to these clients and their matters is to assemble lean, highly focused teams of lawyers, with an emphasis on very hands-on partners. Our lawyers combine the necessary corporate, M&A, finance and tax expertise with other relevant areas of specialisation, to obtain the best results. While we have the ability to quickly compose large and diverse teams of lawyers for due diligence and similar tasks, we recognise that many clients prefer smaller, specialised teams that are deeply involved and knowledgeable about all aspects of the transaction.
Each team is built on the client’s needs. We efficiently implement tried and tested, and in many cases innovative solutions, with a combination of professional know-how, profound client and market knowledge, and dedication.
Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy LLP is a leading international law firm. Our 600 lawyers worldwide provide integrated services combined with technical excellence and genuine sector expertise throughout the world, as we have been doing for more than 140 years. Milbank is headquartered in New York and has offices in Beijing, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Munich, São Paulo, Singapore, Tokyo and Washington DC.
The first German office opened 2001 in Frankfurt, followed by Munich in 2004. As part of our global network, these offices give us a strong local presence, and our experienced partners there back that up with in-depth knowledge of the German market. More than 45 lawyers in Germany provide high-level legal advice in all areas that are key to the structuring, financing and successful implementation of transactions. Listed groups, SMEs, financial institutes and global investors have placed their trust in our expertise for many years, and continue to do so with great success.
GC Powerlist Germany - Events
GC Powerlist: Germany 2014
GC Powerlist: Germany, first published in September 2014.
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