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Naomi Seward of Nationwide discusses how her company implemented a central legal function and the significant impact it has made.
How was the business structured before you centralised legal services?
As with many organisations, the provision of legal services was provided by various different business areas. Each business area would set and be responsible for their own budgets, and would then instruct their own counsel as necessary. While a good level of service was being provided, the size and scale of the business required a more co-ordinated approach. By centralising the function, we were able to develop a stronger function that was joined up, enabling us to become a stronger partner to the business as a whole. Nationwide is a growing brand and the biggest building society in the world. We needed to match that growth and aspiration with a model that was future-proof. We think we’ve done that quite well.
How did Nationwide start bringing legal services into one place?
We began by centralising the budget. This pulled together all the areas within the business that instruct lawyers. The next step was to create a panel to ensure consistent provision of legal services to a specific standard across the organisation.
We needed to determine what legal departments were needed to service the business’s requirements. For us, this meant undertaking a significant piece of work around organisational effectiveness. It was about setting up the right structure for the provision of the advice we give in order to ensure we had the right people in the right place to do that work.
Total centralisation is not the desired end result. The aim is to get a firmer grip on risk elements by creating a framework where no one within the organisation can instruct a lawyer to carry out any legal work without going via the legal department. It is about developing a stronger, more cohesive function that is a valued and trusted business partner, with a seat at the table at the
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