Virtual in-house legal services for telecommunications and technology businesses
One of Mirkwood Evans Vincent’s niche practice areas, which resulted in our commendation by the Law Society for the provision of “pioneering legal services” after we first launched it in 2008, is a specialist service targeted at telecommunications and technology companies, which we call “virtual in-house legal services”.
Virtual in-house legal services involves telecommunications and technology business clients buying legal services using a “mobile phone tariff” type contract, whereby the client commits to buy a minimum number of hours of legal support per month for a minimum twelve month period, at very low hourly rates, and is then entitled to any additional hours over and above their allowance at the same low rates.
The service is managed by leading telecommunications lawyer and technology law expert, Katherine Evans, who had ten years as a senior in-house lawyer with AT&T in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region, before moving into private practice to form Legal Hobbit, the predecessor practice to Mirkwood Evans Vincent in 2007. Her in-house background as a business technology and telecommunications lawyer means that she has a wide range of expertise across the range of legal services required by telecommunications and other business technology businesses, but as Senior Partner in a firm with other practice areas, is able to bring in lawyers with other specialisms in a focused way as required.
As Katherine says:
“It is about knowing what you don’t know and understanding exactly what your client needs without them being handed over to a lawyer in another practice area of the firm, who does not understand the telecommunications or business technology industries.”
Clients who buy this service are able to use their monthly allocation to buy legal support services across all specialist departments within the entire firm at the same rates as from the telecommunications and business technology law group, taking in commercial property and construction law advice, employment law advice and even dispute resolution and litigation support, but whilst always keeping the close supervision of a specialist telecommunications and IT partner. Thus in the commercial property area, we have assisted one of our clients, with the purchase rooftop leases in connection with the roll out of their national mobile broadband network. In the employment area, we have helped our telecommunications clients on a range of matters, which might face any business, from drafting executive employment terms, to managing redundancies across multiple jurisdictions and helping to design a whistleblower policy.
We have found that this virtual in-house legal service continues to benefit both smaller companies without dedicated in-house legal support and larger clients who need flexible and commercially focused support to supplement their existing and often overstretched in-house legal function.
One of our smaller niche clients who has benefited from this service is a UK based company, which provides specialist staff and project management support for telecommunications related projects in the UK and Africa. We have supported them this year in connection with their involvement as a subcontractor on the roll out of the BT Next Generation Network, as well as with a multi-million dollar network build of telecommunications infrastructure in Nigeria. The specialist focus of our IT & Telecoms Group has enabled us to provide support to conclude both customer and supplier facing service agreements for these projects in the UK and Nigeria, and all associated employment agreements, as well as providing help with inward and outbound visa applications involving multiple jurisdictions.