In-house TMT Team of the Year

Guardian News and Media

The in-house legal team at the Guardian News and Media, Editorial Legal Services (ELS), punched well above its weight in 2014 and championed a series of landmark court cases.

In April the team, led by ELS director Gill Phillips, successfully challenged the refusal of Serco to release an investigation report into allegations of sexual abuse at Yarlswood, enabling the Observer to publish a story.

The team instructed Blackstone Chambers and 1 Brick Court in the case concerning the Freedom of Information challenge concerning Prince Charles’ “advocacy” correspondence with ministers. The judgement by the Supreme Court ultimately found in favour of the Guardian team.

ELS also successfully helped the Guardian News and Media team navigate through choppy waters when publishing a series of tax stories on HSBC, with looming legal threats of injunctions pre-publication. They published the stories with relatively few complaints.

The team puts significant value on external collaboration with third parties abroad, which helps to ameliorate and minimise the practical threats of pre-publication injunctions. According to judges, this entry demonstrated “many high profile cases in the public interest” carried out by a “small but effective team” of just five in-house lawyers.

Runner up
  • Skyscanner

Skyscanner’s legal team completed a key acquisition for the company last year, when it bought Chinese meta-search company Youbibi, which was strategically important to the fixture development of Skyscanner in the Asia Pacific market. The team also had a successful appeal of the CMA’s decision to accept commitments in their investigation into online hotel bookings, working on behalf of six travel companies. This was the first time one a decision of commitments had been challenged.

One of the judges said: “This entry demonstrates a bold and brave approach. I saw vision and execution rather than just vision.”

Third place
  • Hitachi Data Systems

Hitachi’s legal team was at the forefront of the movement to transform the company from being a company that supplies IT equipment to a service company that aims to be a leader in the“internet of things”. As part of this evolution, the legal team worked on partnership agreements and large acquisitions to move into the cloud services and big data market.

Judges said this entry was “particularly impressive”, noting in particular the change in skill sets required from the legal team as they moved with the company from selling supplies to supplying services.

  • BBC Worldwide
  • Pearson
  • TalkTalk Telecom Group
  • Viacom International Media Networks