St George’s, University of London is the only university in the UK to specialise in healthcare and medicine. With roots stretching back three centuries, its illustrious alumni include everyone from the ‘father of surgery’ John Hunter, to the ‘father of immunology’ Edward Jenner.
In 2011, St George’s appointed its first ever in-house counsel, Ken Morrison. According to Ken, “one of the reasons I was hired is that our legal spend was over £300,000 a year. Nobody went to legal for anything. And those departments that were heavy users of legal services were ringing up our external lawyers and running up massive bills.”
Being new to St George’s Ken’s first challenge was getting his colleagues to turn to him as a trusted advisor.
“I’ve built my practice here from scratch. An important part of that was convincing colleagues that if they came to me, they could get good advice which wouldn’t need double-checking with our external lawyers. I couldn’t have done it without the backup of LexisNexis. It’s absolutely fundamental. It’s one of the tools of the trade.”
Ken uses LexisPSL for practical guidance, with a bespoke package tailored specifically for in-house legal departments. He also uses LexisLibrary for access to up-to-date case law and legislation.
Coronavirus to copyright
Like any in-house lawyer, one of the main challenges Ken faces is the sheer breadth of subject matter he encounters on a day-to-day basis.
“My scope is wide-ranging, covering every aspect of business. No two days are alike. Today, I might be drafting a license to study coronavirus in one of our labs. Tomorrow, I could be in the High Court on a fitness to practice case.”
Covering 35 practice areas, LexisPSL gives Ken the confidence that he can deal with whatever crosses his desk.
Ken estimates roughly 60% of his job is commercial contracts, while the other 40% is dispute resolution.
“Having LexisPSL, I know that when colleagues come to me asking for a contract, I can speak with confidence about what’s needed. If we’re talking about a dispute, I can easily check the law.”
When it comes to contracts, he finds the pro formas on LexisPSL particularly useful.
“Often, I’m commenting on contracts that have been drafted by someone else. It’s helpful to have the pro forma, so I can quickly and easily add clauses into their contract and bring it up to the right standard.”
He cites a recent example.
“We’ve got lots of different statues around the building of various historical figures. The BBC wanted to film them for a documentary. I had to resolve an obscure question about copyright. A quick look on LexisPSL, and I found a pro forma letter that I could use. This gave me confidence that I had given good advice on copyright law.”
Value & reputation
With less need for external lawyers, LexisPSL and LexisLibrary have helped to dramatically reduce St George’s legal spend. But for Ken, the real value has been in building his reputation.
“Recently, I had a question from our Chair of Council. We were applying to become a University in our own right, and he thought that under the Education Reform Act 1988, we needed to go to the Privy Council for approval. When I looked it up in LexisLibrary, I discovered an amendment that said we didn’t need to do that. So I was able to go back to him and tell him exactly why. He’s one of the senior people that I need to impress.”
But it’s not just about senior colleagues. Ken’s often approached by his colleagues for personal advice on everything from divorce to Powers of Attorney.
“Obviously, the very first thing I tell them is to get their own lawyer. But I can dip into Halsbury’s Laws of England and give them a few pointers about what sort of questions to ask. That helps me build my reputation too, as someone who’s approachable.”
A question of confidence
Having LexisPSL and LexisLibrary doesn’t just give Ken’s colleagues more confidence in him—it also gives him more confidence in himself.
“Sometimes, we get software supplier contracts that are over 300 pages long. Buried in paragraph 342, small b, little c is the really important bit. If I wasn’t able to look up the right wording on LexisPSL or LexisLibrary, I’d be poking around in the dark. With LexisPSL and LexisLibrary, I have the confidence that the final contract is accurate, and in our best interests. I don’t need to say I nicked the wording from LexisPSL!”
Ultimately, Ken believes having access to tools like LexisPSL and LexisLibrary isn’t a luxury, but a necessity.
“For me, it’s non-negotiable. I couldn’t hold my head up high or look my clients in the eye if I was just relying on Google. That’s just so dangerous, never mind the extra time and effort. The great thing about LexisPSL is that it takes difficult legal content and turns it into plain English. And after all, that’s what I’m supposed to be doing for my colleagues across the institution.”
“The great thing about LexisPSL is that it takes difficult legal content and turns it into plain English.”
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