Olympic Lawyer Procures Toilets, Protects Newts at London Games
Being the first official law firm for the Olympic Games isn’t all glamor. Ask the Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP lawyer who had to round up portable toilets from throughout Britain for the event that will bring about 9 million spectators for 26 sports over three weeks.
Tim Jones, a former rugby player, has led the Freshfields team ensuring nothing is left to chance since being named in 2009 as sole legal-services provider to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Freshfields, based in London, is the eighth-largest law firm in the world by revenue, according to Legal Business Magazine’s 2012 revenue survey. The firm bid for the Olympic job in part to improve recognition of its brand globally, and Jones said Freshfields has seen results.
“We were looking into increasing our brand awareness, increasing our corporate client base and improving employee satisfaction,” Jones said. Working on the Olympics “just provides a terrific galvanizing force.”
Jones, 55, is a self-confessed sports lover who played for the London Welsh rugby club. He talks as enthusiastically about the variety of his work as he does about meeting British sports heroes including Barcelona 1992 100-meter gold medalist Linford Christie and David Hemery, the 1968 400-meter hurdles champion. The British team is enjoying one of its most successful Olympics ever having won at least 52 medals, including 25 golds.
“I am a proud Londoner and really believe in the legacy,” Jones said. “While all other global events are going to the next generation of super powers, London has a chance to put itself center stage.”
His work ranged from relatively mundane contract and employment law to intellectual-property enforcement and putting in place drug-testing procedures. Contracts had to be in place for the 8,400 shuttlecocks, 270,000 skeet targets and 600 basketballs needed for the event scheduled to end Aug. 12.
After years of work by as many as 300 lawyers for the games, Jones said the quirky elements -- such as saving 2,000 endangered newts from the Olympic park and writing contracts for production of 34,500 medals and having them safely housed in a vault in the Tower of London -- will always stick with him.
Taking on those different challenges drew praise from the organizers of the games.
“The greatest benefit for me is the willingness to step into uncharted territory and work as part of my team to figure out the way forward,” Terry Miller, general counsel at LOCOG, said of Freshfields in an e-mail.
Freshfields’s ties to the 2012 Games dates back to the 2003 bid to bring the multi-sport event to the U.K.’s capital. A team that included soccer player David Beckham won the bid in 2005 against Paris, the favorite to host the games. LOCOG then started a competitive tender process in which about 20 firms made pitches for the work.
Freshfields was confirmed as a tier-three sponsor of the games in 2009 and became the event’s first ever official law firm, Jones said. It costs about 10 million pounds ($15.6 million) to be a tier-three sponsor for the games, which can be covered in part by services provided. Other London 2012 sponsors include Coca-Cola Co. (KO) and General Electric Co. (GE)
Jones declined to provide specifics on Freshfields financial dealings with LOCOG, saying the information was commercially sensitive.
Sebastian Coe, the chairman of LOCOG, said working with Freshfields was crucial to making the games a success.
Lawyers at the firm worked with Transport for London, operator of the city’s public transit, to arrange free travel for 9 million ticket holders. Freshfields negotiated the contracts for 24,000 temporary security staff to man the games. As many as 18,200 military personnel were deployed at Olympic sites after G4S Plc (GFS), the world’s largest security company, failed to provide enough staff for the games.
“We had the reputation of being a country that could not make things happen,” Jones said. “Being part of the team that had to persuade the IOC that we could make quick decisions and make things happen was fascinating.”
Jones, who studied at Oxford, qualified as a lawyer in 1981 and became a partner at Freshfields in 1990. He is known as one of the city’s leading corporate advisers, working on deals including gaming company Betfair Group Plc (BET)’s 2011 initial public offering. He was the firm’s London managing partner from 2007 until 2011. Freshfields advised on $140.4 billion in mergers and acquisitions so far this year, second behind Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The firm reported 1.13 billion pounds in revenues for the fiscal year ended May 31, fourth among the U.K.’s five so-called magic circle firms.
“This is the biggest peacetime operation, with the second biggest being the Paralympics,” Jones said. “There are 24,000 athletes and officials, 20,000 media and at the same time you have something like summertime Davos happening with all the leading business people and politicians.”
The Paralympics begin Aug. 29 and Jones said those will capture the imagination of the world.
“Some people love sport, some people like it a bit and some people hate it, but the Paralympics crosses all those boundaries,” Jones said. “Paralympic athletes are extraordinary.”
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