Evaluating external advisers is important – Correos

Correos´ José María Elías de Tejada says an emphasis is placed on legal service users within the organisation providing detailed feedback on the performance of external law firms


When Spain´s national postal service Correos wants to hire external law firms, it generally tends to use local Spanish outfits or international firms with a strong presence in Spain, according to the organisation´s general secretary José María Elías de Tejada. Though he chooses not to name any preferred advisers, he stresses that experience, expertise and economics play key roles when selecting firms.
“When we have a project, we define its scope and ask firms for their proposals and budgets, which we then review before choosing a preferred firm,” Elías de Tejada remarks. He adds that Correos does place restrictions on the amount that can be spent on external legal advisers. “The fees are not the only criteria but, as a state-owned company, Correos considers very carefully the economic element when taking decisions [about external law firms] and also seeks to establish budget caps if possible as a general policy on all external suppliers, not just law firms – we need to know what firms will offer and how much it will cost.”
Elías de Tejada says combining the efforts of internal lawyers and external advisors is an opportunity to “enhance expected results by coordinating roles, keeping to timeframes and increasing the quality and value added of the service”. He adds that Correos´ in-house team “tries to manage, and work closely with law firms to help this process”.

Internal feedback
The company places a great deal of emphasis on evaluating the performance of external legal advisers. Indeed, Elías de Tejada observes that law firms are increasingly asking Correos for an evaluation of their work when a project has closed. Correos as a whole has a policy of asking departments for internal feedback on suppliers, including legal advisers, which is normally done through a standardised document with space for detailed comments.
Correos is one of the largest national postal services in the world. The company has more than 50,000 staff across more than 10,000 “access points” throughout the country. The assumption may be that the legal requirements for such a major operation may require heavy input from external law firms but, according to Elías de Tejada, the company prefers to rely on its 30-lawyer in-house team for most legal work.
“A decision was made several years ago that we needed to put more emphasis on developing our in-house legal function,” he explains. “This was in order to become more efficient and effective because the company had to go through a great many changes in terms of its business offerings and that meant more legal knowledge was needed – the financial crisis also meant we had to reduce our legal budget, so now we only outsource in a few key areas, such as competition, compliance and disputes.”
Indeed, in recent years Correos, like many similar operators in Europe, has sought to expand beyond a traditional postal service. Elías de Tejada joined one of Correos’ subsidiaries in 2005 before moving up to the parent company in 2008. As such, he has seen the evolution of the organisation from one of delivering letters to an operator that offers other service lines. Elías de Tejada says Correos has “adapted accordingly and the team has diversified greatly across different specialisms”.

In-house litigation team
“We have developed in areas including e-commerce, financial services, commercial, real estate, data protection, corporate governance, competition and European and national regulatory, as the company has looked at providing a wider spread of products, whether financial, parcel delivery or direct marketing,” he comments. An in-house litigation team handles the numerous disputes in which Correos Group is involved. “Retaining this in-house has allowed the legal team to improve their expertise across a number of areas while also providing advice to the company,” Elías de Tejada continues.
Unlike postal operations in places such as the UK, Portugal, Germany and Belgium – which have looked at privatisations – Correos is set to remain in public hands for the foreseeable future. Even so, Elías de Tejada does acknowledge that companies like Royal Mail or CTT Correios (in Portugal) would be good options for investors because they have been able to “adapt to the new market conditions while being well-managed”.
Elías de Tejada concludes: “This is a fantastic job and the last few years have allowed me to work on a diverse spread of legal matters and deepen my experience as well as being involved in a unique transformation process.”

José María Elías de Tejada is general secretary of Correos