Interview with Alice Darwall, French Connection (Part 2)

StyleCounsel is the GCRC’s latest sector that will be focusing on luxury goods, retail and fashion law. Enter the StyleCounsel community to read the latest interviews with GCs of some of the leading companies in the world.

Read out first exclusive interview with Alice Darwall, Group General Counsel at French Connection Group, who talks about ecommerce, globalisation and counterfeiting.
(Interview was conducted by Helena Hill)

Do you have a panel of external law firms? How do those external law firms support you?

We are a tiny in-house team at French Connection – really because the work we handle is both international and changes every year, so we need a variety of different specialist advice which cannot sensibly be brought in-house. The role of GC in a constantly changing business like FC is not to be a legal specialist, but to direct and manage legal challenges and transactions and provide strategic input to the business. So our external counsel are very important to us internationally, in providing high quality advice to support the business.

Do they add value, do they keep to costs? Do they charge fixed fees or by the hour?

We use a variety of fee models, as most in-house departments now do, I suspect, which reflect the nature of the work being outsourced. The firms we use do understand the importance to clients of transparency on costs, and achieving predictability as far as that is possible. The legal market in the UK has become far more sophisticated in this respect over the last 10 years. In markets overseas, leaving aside the US, the position is perhaps less developed.

A recent survey from a global bar association has revealed that Compliance and Ethics are the top priority for in-house lawyers this year. Do you agree? What other areas do you see as a priority?

I don’t think it would be my top priority – as a lawyer and GC, I am more concerned with compliance than ethical issues. CSR policies are more a matter for the Board. What is true is that the rise of social media can really put the spotlight on a brand that is perceived to behaving unethically, as the recent twitter furore over angora sourced in China has illustrated.

About Helena Hill

Helena joined the GCRC in December 2013 as StyleCounsel Co-ordinator. Since joining the GCRC, Helena has thoroughly enjoyed interviewing designers and in-house lawyers from leading fashion and lifestyle companies.
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