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Read our exclusive interview with John Miller, Group General Counsel and Company Secretary at Toni & Guy, who talks about Technology, London Fashion Week and Globalisation. (Interview was conducted by Helena Hill).
1. You’ve been a GC and Company Secretary at Toni & Guy since 2003. How have you noticed the role changing in the last 11 years?
I joined Toni & Guy as its first legal counsel, and now lead a team of three, so inevitably a lot has changed in the intervening years, as the department has taken on more legal work. One notable change is that I now have a more strategic and less reactive role.
2. What was your experience of the transition from law firm to in-house legal department?
I moved in-house to a family-owned company from the Magic Circle, so the transition was more than just about a change in legal environment. In my early days at Toni & Guy, I was very aware of the absence of any legal colleagues to discuss issues with, especially as the scope of work was a lot wider than in private practice, but I also became aware very quickly how much law I did actually know (in particular in areas I had never previously advised on).
3. Toni & Guy has just celebrated its 19th season as official sponsor of London Fashion Week – When these big events come along what do you find yourself having to prioritise? How big is your team?
When events like London Fashion Week happen, we will have (hopefully) done all the work we need to do. It is in the months beforehand when negotiating the sponsorship agreement and the licence for our product range that we will be most involved, so peaks and troughs are less of an issue for us in that respect.
What is the balance between work that is done in house and work that is outsourced to law firms?
On the whole, we keep general commercial work in-house and outsource to property lawyers and trade mark attorneys, though we will also instruct externally for some corporate or commercial deals.
Does technology help in this regard?
Definitely. We subscribe to an online know-how resource, which means many more issues can be resolved without having to call on external advisors. I have also set up automated processes to speed up the preparation of our most-used agreements, which without doubt enables us to reduce the amount of work we outsource.
How has technology changed your role as GC?
Technology has enabled us to advise on more issues internally and provide that advice more quickly.
According to the Toni & Guy website, Toni & Guy has more than 420 salons across 42 countries, employing over 7000 people worldwide. How does the increasing nature of globalisation make the role of the GC more challenging?
Toni & Guy was probably in c.30 countries when I started so the change over the past decade has been one of degree rather than anything else. We are a franchise business, so we don’t have hands-on involvement with the international salons, albeit we do tend to enter into joint-venture arrangements in some of our bigger markets.
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?
It is difficult to answer no to this without it sounding as if we don’t take either seriously, but that’s not the case. Compliance and Ethics are clearly very important they are not the top priority for me.