In-house Lawyer of the Year

Rhodri Lewis - Welsh Rugby Union Group

Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) head of legal affairs Rhodri Lewis wowed judges, coming across as “a great leader who has really made a difference for the Welsh Rugby Union” as well as being “an extremely accomplished lawyer”.

This year, Lewis advised on, negotiated and drafted the Rugby Services Agreement between the WRU and the four professional Welsh rugby teams. The six-year, £60m agreement, sets out Welsh rugby’s route until 2020 and is central to its revenue streams, enabling the WRU to invest in the Welsh national sport at all levels. Also within Lewis’ remit was establishing a central contracting process for Wales’ international rugby players and responsibility for all legal matters relating to the iconic Millennium Stadium.

One key challenge faced by Lewis is that of budget constraints. Legal budget is small and judges recognised that Lewis“clearly delivered a lot with limited external support”. He was labelled“a resourceful all rounder who covers a lot of ground with a relatively small team” and a GC who was “big on innovation” and who “epitomises the values and ethos of the organisation”.

Runner up
  • Thomas Brown - PayPal UK

PaylPal director and head of legal Thomas Brown has had a superb year, launching two of the most fundamental products in PayPal’s UK history while saving the company nearly £40m. The lead counsel on both PayPal Credit and PayPal Working Capital, Brown’s central involvement in both projects is typical of his approach - to embed himself into the company and the market.

By spending time in PayPal’s call centre, marketing department and research and development team, Brown goes beyond the usual general counsel remit. Judges praised his ‘excellent example of commercial first and lawyer second’ and ‘innovation and deep involvement in company initiatives’.

Third place
  • Zoe Bucknell - OneSavings Bank

OneSavings Bank group general counsel Zoe Bucknell managed the bank’s London IPO last year, masterminding the first flotation of a UK bank for more than a decade under difficult market conditions. Topping off a busy year, she helped to instigate an extensive IT infrastructure programme and the resetting of interest rates on subordinated bonds.

The longest-serving member of the bank’s executive team, Bucknell impressed judges with her “amazing demonstration of how a small team can handle a massive workload in a regulated environment”, “impressive leadership” and “clear involvement in key strategic developments”.

  • Suber Akther - Siemens
  • Toni Lyng - Royal Mail
  • Gillian Phillips - Guardian News and Media
  • Craig Stoehr - Thomas Cook Group