The In-House Experience: Interview with Richard Tapp, Company Secretary and Director of Legal Services at Carillion plc
Richard Tapp is Company Secretary and Director of Legal Services at Carillion plc, the FTSE-listed integrated support services and construction business. He leads on legal and regulatory matters for Carillion globally, and also has responsibility for Carillion’s Ethics and Compliance Office, Corporate Communications, Government Affairs and Carillion Insurance. He is the architect of the ground-breaking managed legal services business, Carillion Advice Services, which forms part of Carillion Legal.
He has led a range of innovative legal sourcing arrangements for Carillion, and has written extensively on in-house legal practice, including Managing External Legal Resources (ICSA) The In-House Lawyer’s Toolkit (Law Society) and The Future of the In-House Lawyer (Law Society). He won the Most Innovative European In-House lawyer in the 2013 FT Innovative Lawyers awards.
Before joining Carillion, he was for six years Company Secretary and Group Legal Adviser for Blue Circle Industries PLC, a FTSE 100 global heavy building materials business. He has established, run and integrated in-house legal teams in North and South America, Europe, Australasia, the Middle East and Asia.
What one change would you make within your in-house legal team that you feel would revolutionise the way you or your team operates?
Revolutionary change often comes about as a result of cumulative evolution. I have been privileged to lead Carillion’s legal team for many years now and I can see that on the back of a defined and reasoned strategy, those changes – often small in themselves – have allowed us to achieve a revolution in the way we operate, with greater integration and effectiveness backed up by the financial metric of spending less on legal fees now than we did in 2002. We are extensive users of technology and I think that an increasing use of artificial intelligence will be the biggest change in years to come, but it can only be effective as part of a broader strategy underpinned by outstanding people.
What is your biggest challenge? What do you think is the biggest challenge for the legal profession in general?
In working on The Future of the In-House Lawyer I was privileged to get a real insight into the challenges and opportunities facing GCs and those who work with us. Across the board, there is pressure to achieve more with less, to deliver faster and more cost effectively, against a background of increasing regulation and greater market competition. The challenge for GCs is to identify what makes a real difference for their organisation – and for the profession in general to recognise and response to the seismic changes in business, technology and working patterns which are transforming their clients’ needs.
What does “adding value” mean to you? What really makes a difference?
To me, it is about completely integrating our lawyers into the business so that they look, feel and behave as part of the team – but still maintain the independence of vision that allows them to see the big picture and protect the organisation. That way we can put in structures and processes to avoid issues arising, can learn of problems and intervene as soon as they arise, and create and maintain value in the organisation. It is also about working seamlessly with other teams – we see real benefits of joining up the legal, corporate communications and government affairs teams, to give just one example.
There has been a lot of discussion regarding legal project management. What does LPM mean to you?
Carillion is a process-driven business in everything we do, and we have adopted and championed process and project management in our own work, with Carillion Legal and CAS both being Lexcel accredited, and adopting legal project management techniques.
I’m sure that there will be increasing focus on LPM in coming years, but it will be part of a wider structural change in the way legal advice is procured and provided. That will use not just traditional legal skills through law firms and in-house teams, but a wider range of alternative providers and new legal skillsets from project management, to technology, to consultancy and training and beyond to ensure that the right people from all of those sources are deployed at the right time and in the right way on every legal project.
How do you think the role of the GC is going to change over the next decade?
It’s probably no exaggeration to say that the role will change more in the next decade than in the previous five. The business, legal, technological and working environment will change immeasurably. The contributors to The Future of the In-House Lawyer – GCs, those who work with us and write about us – saw the critical drivers as scanning the horizon for developments affecting the organisation, its context and environment; technological development; setting the ethical tone of the organisation and securing its future through influence, development and positioning.
What is your vision for your legal team?
We have a business-related vision, to preserve and enhance the business and to protect its asset base. That is deliberately a very wide remit which goes beyond the day-to-day role and forces us to work with the business on the challenges and opportunities of the future, and on regulatory, reputational and ethical risk as well as the purely legal. All of that can only be achieved, though, if we are able to develop, enthuse and inspire our people to learn and grow in their professional careers and define their own vision for the future.
Where do you go to for learning and inspiration, or who inspires you?
I am very fortunate to work with an outstanding, committed group of people who inspire me on a daily basis. It is also inspirational – and humbling – to see the difference which CAS teams can make to peoples’ lives through their legally-aided housing and debt work. That’s very different to CAS’s core work for corporates and law firms, but equally skilled and of real value.
What key skills do you look for in your team members?
Probably the most important thing I can do is to populate the team with the right people. Absolute integrity and the willingness to challenge the norm is critical. Technical excellence is a given, but is not enough on its own. Our business is complex and fast-moving and we look for people with the intellectual curiosity to enjoy and revel in new challenges – as well as the ability and willingness to work with colleagues across and beyond the business. It’s also important that they have the potential, and the willingness, to grow their expertise and careers with us and we look for people who we think can do the next job and the one after that as well, not just the one we employ them to do initially.
What innovation could you not do without on a daily basis?
Innovation is really important to us. We need to be able to enhance and refine what we do every day to deliver a better, more efficient and cost-effective service to meet the needs of our business, and we encourage everyone in the teams and in our law firms to look for the ideas – whether incremental or revolutionary – that make that happen. Taking our legal technology as a given, the one innovation we could not do without is Carillion Advice Services – using our CAS team to support both Carillion Legal and our law firms means that the lawyers can focus on the complex, business-critical issues which only they can do – and, as one of my colleagues says, resulting in “happy lawyers.”
What innovation would you most like to see that would make your day better?
We’ve seen real advances in the way we work and in the technology we use, for transactional work, for knowledge management, and for working across our law firms. I think the next innovation needs to be a single, integrated platform which gives the GC complete transparency of all these things, at the same time allowing us to bring together advances in the way we inform and report to our businesses and highlight the key issues of tomorrow.
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