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Catapult Group is an Australian listed company (ASX:CAT) offering wearable elite athlete tracking technology and corresponding sporting analytics. The company’s continued growth in the UK led to the need to hire its first UK Legal Counsel providing commercial legal advice and services to the Catapult group globally, working autonomously and reporting to the general counsel in Melbourne.
This required a candidate with considerable degree of confidence and commercial acumen, since he or she would, for the most part, be working as the company’s sole in-house legal counsel in the UK.
Unusually for a first UK legal counsel recruitment project, the principal challenges centred around two things. Firstly, candidates’ perceptions of what would be required of them in such a role, and consequently whether they perceived they would be “ready” for it. Second was the highly compelling proposition presented by roles in any way connected to sport, which clients find can end up being oversubscribed.
Perceptions: Conceptually, UK legal counsel roles like this, when advertised, tend to attract senior candidates with more than 5 years PQE – very often, such recruitment is at that level or higher. However, each company’s circumstances and grading structures can be radically different. Here, the structure and corresponding salary budget gave rise to hiring a UK legal counsel at a lower financial level, notwithstanding the high levels of responsibility and commerciality required of the appointee. Conversely, the challenge with a large proportion of potential UK legal counsel candidates at this level is that they typically tend not to seek such demanding in-house legal roles until they perceive they have “earned their stripes” – after say three or more years PQE in a law firm, commonly.
Additionally, a geographically remote reporting line, combined with the nature of a ‘sole lawyer’ UK legal counsel role, can sometimes (rightly or wrongly) be perceived as less compelling by some junior candidates. They typically look to join a team of other lawyers on their first in-house move, for the support they perceive it would provide to them.
There are obviously exceptions to these general rules, and this was the rare type of UK legal counsel candidate we would be looking for. Inevitably, because of these limiting factors, the pool of potential candidates who might meet the brief was inherently smaller than it would have otherwise been.
Compelling nature of the proposition: Typically, any role involving sport (whether at club, regulatory or supplier level) is usually oversubscribed. The sector always gives rise to large numbers of interested candidates, not all of whom will be appropriate to the client’s specific brief. This necessitates considerable filtering in the initial selection of candidates to be interviewed. This is where an experienced legal recruitment business like Florit Legal can add value, and all the more where reporting lines are into the legal function in another country, since legal line managers are unable to undertake the first stage of the recruitment process in person.
A client’s need in a situation like this, is for a commercially aware and pragmatic individual who can understand both sides of the supplier-customer relationship, have a big-picture view of what the company is seeking to achieve and who will develop strong relationships with non-legally qualified stakeholders and speak in plain English. They needed a UK legal counsel who wanted to work on commercial supply contracts in a sales-driven technology environment and who is confident enough to work on their own largely unsupervised, as opposed to someone attracted by the perceived ‘glitz’ of the sport sector.
Consulting with line management at the outset, quickly uncovered the peculiarities of the role and how a UK legal counsel would fit into the wider global business, from a base in Leeds. Together, we established that even though the role content was predominately commercial drafting, a candidate with strong corporate skills would be of great interest to the business, in view of their breadth of business knowledge.
Unusually for us, Florit Legal was engaged to supplement the client’s own direct recruitment strategy, which had already begun, and other legal recruiters were also instructed concurrently. This UK legal counsel role was filled by us within 4 weeks of our initial instruction, supplying a corporate lawyer from a Top 20 commercial law firm in the region who was already seeking such a role.
First UK Legal Counsel: to be based in Leeds.
Overseas company: international reporting line, to Australia.
Limited candidate pool: owing to junior PQE requirement and ‘sole counsel’ nature.
Database search: successfully supplemented client’s own direct recruitment.
Multi-agency approach: Florit Brooke succeeded above other UK legal recruitment firms working concurrently
Appointee: corporate lawyer from Top 20 UK law firm.