In-house teams must retain some independence from their organisations in order to act as an effective ‘control function’, despite calls for general counsel to become more embedded within the business, according to the senior legal counsel at Barclays.

Lara Oyesanya, vice-president of legal counsel at Barclays UK retail and business bank, told the Gazette this week that one of the purposes of in-house teams is to act as a control function.

‘It is important that their independence is maintained, and maybe maintaining some distance helps to achieve this,’ said Oyesanya (pictured). However, departments must avoid becoming ‘ivory towers’ in the process, she added.

Centralising legal teams can add value to the rest of th e business, she said. ‘There are many benefits and at the heart of these are efficiency, quick response time, knowledge sharing and leverage of resources, both internal and external,’ she said.

‘Anxiety among clients that they may be losing dedicated legal support is probably one of the drawbacks, but in reality that is not the case.’

The trend for legal departments to do more work in-house is growing, she said. ‘[This] may well result in bigger teams with a mix of lawyers – solicitors, barristers, legal executives and paralegals – and may carry on until the economy becomes really strong again, at which point it may all change.’

For their part, firms are becoming more responsive to the needs of in-house teams, she said.