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Paul Donovan, Head of Legal at Canopius, the largest privately held underwriting business operating at Lloyd’s of London and the world’s leading specialist insurance and reinsurance market, speaks to Sophie Gould, Head of LexisPSL, about his experience of reorganising and developing the legal team to align closer to the business "to show that we give the business more than law: we give it commercial advice."
Tell us a little bit about your background and your team.
I started my career in a professional company secretarial practice. To go further in the field I thought you needed either an accounting or a legal qualification. So, as I'd always had an interest in law, I decided to go down the lawyer route and spent several years (while working) getting the GDL, as it was then, followed by the BVC. I was called to the Bar before moving in-house with an international food franchising company.
Moving to Canopius was a very steep learning curve, but I relished the challenge. I've held other positions at Canopius, but have been head of legal for just over two years. Alongside me there is a legal associate and a legal assistant, and we've just taken on a legal administrator. It's a very lean team, but that's great because it offers plenty of opportunities for the team to get exposure throughout the business. We also have a large informal panel of external legal advisors with different specialisms as the business has so many different needs.
As well as business as usual, which includes contract review and legal risk mitigation, the group's and therefore the team's, main focus over the past four years has been mergers and acquisitions. We're private equity backed and always have lots of projects. I would say that working here is exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure. It keeps it interesting and has helped the team demonstrate what we can achieve with and for the organisation.
What was the reason behind reorganising and developing the legal
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