Knowing just the law is no longer enough – Mango

Clients nowadays expect their in-house counsel to be at least as business-minded as they are, says Isabel Calero

Las empresas actualmente esperan que sus abogados internos tengan una visión empresarial y no sólo jurídica, afirma Isabel Calero, del Grupo Mango. Un conocimiento profundo de las operaciones y de la actividad de la empresa define las posibilidades del abogado interno de ofrecer valor añadido a su cliente.

Mango, the multinational clothing brand, is worn the world over and its place as a wardrobe basic is undeniable. With over 12,000 employees and 2,500 shops worldwide, the proof is in the numbers. Its turnover doubled over the past six years, from €942m to an expected €1830m, a 30 percent increase in relation to FY2011 – something quite unique in the current climate.
Isabel Calero, Head of Mango’s Legal Department, headquartered in Barcelona, knows how fortunate they are to be in a sector that seems to be defying the odds. Where many in-house counsel are cutting staff, Mango´s legal department has grown in proportion with the turnover. When Calero started at Mango five years ago, they were a six-person team. Now they are ten, as well as an in-house lawyer based in Shanghai responsible for Asia and the South Pacific.
Calero began her legal career at Gómez-Acebo & Pombo before going in-house at Nike, Spain, for five and a half years. “I’ve developed most of my legal career in-house,” she says, something she has in common with her team members. “The majority have developed their professional careers at Mango, giving them the legal knowledge and industry experience to provide legal advice with the added-value of insider business sense.”

Keeping up with the business
While their business is clearly booming, the past turbulent years have seen changes in what companies expect from in-house counsel, says Calero – Mango being no exception. An in-depth knowledge of the internal dealings of the business currently defines the true added-value of today’s in-house counsel.
As doing business is so tough in this climate, they must be able to translate key legal issues and communicate in plain language when pointing out the difference between a really profitable deal and an average one, she says. Every transaction requires the legal team to increase efficiency, place a higher emphasis on due diligence and better protection, and also increasingly act as strategic consultants rather than just advisers on technical points of law.
They also need to understand the risks involved in any transactions, Calero says, and continually ask themselves if the structure chosen for a deal is the one most likely to achieve success with minimum risk.

In or out
Calero’s team philosophy, therefore, is to carry out as much work as they can internally to be as involved as possible in the process because, ultimately, it is the in-house department that reports to the decision makers. 
In terms of cost-effectiveness, in-house counsel are responsible for ensuring that companies retain budgetary certainty on their legal expenditure, she says, and minimising costs.
Domestically, Calero externalises on occasion, when the complexity of the issue requires highly specialised expertise on a decision that could directly impact on the core business.
Considering that Mango operates in more than 130 jurisdictions worldwide, when advice is required in other jurisdictions, “we always externalise to local or international law firms”, she says. She is clear to point out that they only collaborate with those whose legal advice takes into account the aims and strategy of the business. As in-house counsel must now have a deeper understanding of their clients’ internal concerns and offer practical business solutions with a direct impact on the direction of the business, Calero explains, they expect the very same from their external law firms.

Looking ahead
Calero says that increasing regulations and reforms are currently keeping in-house lawyers on their toes. For Mango’s in-house team this has meant dealing with continuously changing retail regulations, for example, the draft bill of the law to regulate distribution contracts, and changes to Consumer Protection Law. 
To survive the coming years, she says, we must continue adapting our roles to those of our clients and act as proactive team-players. “A willingness to research new areas of law applicable to the business and stay on top of continuously changing regulation is a must.”
The true added value, however, comes from taking this a step further, she explains, by training their clients on any changes that may have a direct impact on how the business runs. After all, especially in this climate, it is all about the business.

Isabel Calero is the Head of the Legal Department at Mango.


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