Paul Sweeney is an English and Irish-qualified Solicitor and currently serves as General Counsel at Legal & General Investment Management ("LGIM").
Paul joined LGIM in 2004 and has led the Legal team since 2008, at times also taking on responsibility for Compliance, Company Secretarial and Fund Governance during his tenure. As principal legal advisor to the LGIM board and its international affiliates, he also advises on matters of governance and regulation in support of LGIM’s global business. The legal team’s responsibilities include negotiating client, counterparty and fund documentation, researching and advising on matters of general law, participating in key business and regulatory projects, and maintaining appropriate and proportionate governance controls.
He joined LGIM in 2004 from the Financial Services Authority where he trained and practised as a Solicitor in the General Counsel’s Division with responsibilities including advising the FSA on the exercise of its powers under FSMA and EU Directives.
OPL: Have you always wanted to be a lawyer?
Paul: Yes, ever since I was younger and a local lawyer helped my parents with a small dispute. I was impressed with the calm, professional, self-assured approach to addressing a problem.
OPL: Why did you originally join LGIM?
Paul: I trained as a lawyer at the then FSA and I didn’t want to stay long term with the regulator. The logical next step for me was moving into the industry and with some experience of the investment side, LGIM appealed to me. I was attracted by its impressive culture, scope and remit. Fifteen years later I can look back on the great experience it has given me and especially the chance to progress through the ranks to the role of General Counsel.
OPL: What does your current legal team look like?
Paul: In London there are 16 solicitors and 2 paralegals organised to cover our institutional, retail and pensions businesses in the UK and internationally. Four senior lawyers report directly to me. A separate team in London looks after Real Assets. Another team in Chicago services our US business. Both have dotted lines to me.
OPL: How much legal work do you handle in house vs outsourcing to law firms?
Paul: We handle all asset management work in house save that certain commoditised derivative documentation is outsourced. And of course we work closely with the funds practices of our UK, Irish and Luxembourg firms to support our UK and EU fund ranges. All technology contracts are outsourced to a panel firm and all employment law and litigation matters are handled by L&G’s Group Legal function.
OPL: What attributes do you look for when assigning outside counsel?
Paul: Not just expertise and experience but the willingness to understand the business and the ability to empathise with the concerns of the individuals involved. They must demonstrate energy and purpose, be responsive, and strive to ensure that the business maintains perspective.
OPL: Are there any particular individuals or law firms you have really enjoyed working with over the years?
Paul: David Berman (FS regulatory) for mix of technical expertise and commerciality. Richard Slaven and Ravi Nayer (FS disputes & civil litigation) for being trusted advisers and for their energy, responsiveness and creativity. Alex Patience for getting client relationship management right.
OPL: What is your secret to running a productive in-house legal team?
Paul: Recruit the best people you can and give them the space to get on with their work. Be supportive even when they make mistakes and don’t undermine them but be honest with feedback, good and bad. Allow them to build their own close relationships with key business leaders to avoid channelling everything through the GC, and thus creating a log jam.
OPL: What types of challenges do you anticipate facing over the coming months?
Paul: Cost and efficiency challenges as a result of regulatory change and market pressures on asset managers. Technology may help to improve efficiencies and manage risks but difficult to evaluate and implement.
The uncertainty of Brexit is also there although I feel LGIM is well positioned to deal with the challenge whatever the outcome may be.
OPL: What has been a highlight in your career as a lawyer?
Paul: I wouldn’t pick one particular matter, but taking on leadership of the Legal team while still relatively junior was a privilege. The role has given me the opportunity to broaden my horizons immeasurably, lead teams and sit across all important matters for LGIM.
OPL: What is the most rewarding thing about your role?
Paul: Leading an enthusiastic and loyal team. We’ve all grown with the business and been involved in all new business initiatives and entry into new locations. Being a part of things from beginning to end has been a fantastic experience and it is rewarding to see how far projects I’ve had the privilege to be involved in have developed.
OPL: What advice would you give to a young lawyer starting out in their career?
Paul Don’t be in a hurry to be the next GC and don’t bind yourself to a rigid career progression plan. Instead, accept that it takes time to build experience but look for and take opportunities to broaden your horizons. And don’t be scared to get things wrong along the way – it’s how you learn.
OPL: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Paul: With 3 children and 2 springer spaniels at home there’s no such thing as free time! Term times are very busy but during holidays we enjoy finding new places to visit and experiences to try as a family. And I selfishly do a few triathlons every year which requires some training, some of which can be neatly timed with exercising the dogs.