Robin Steel

Robin Steel

Senior Counsel at BAE Systems Submarines

Ever wondered what it’s like to work at the cutting edge of the UK’s military industry?

Robin, can you tell us a bit about your own career to date?
Before moving to BAE, I worked in private practice, first at Dickinson Dees (now Bond Dickinson) and latterly as a Partner at DWF, both in Newcastle. I was primarily a Corporate Lawyer but was also part of a very strong Transport sector team at Dickie Dees and consequently did a fair amount of commercial contracts work too, particularly for the rail sector. This experience of large franchising, rolling stock procurement and infrastructure projects has been really valuable in my current role.

What made you move in-house from private practice?
I had spent nearly 15 years in private practice and fancied a change. I did several long term secondments with client companies during my private practice career, and really enjoyed getting under the skin of a business. As an external advisor, I often felt like I was only scratching the surface.

What’s the biggest difference between the two?
In a senior in-house role, you actually have to make the decision, not just advise on the options. This can be nerve-racking at times, but is also rewarding. You also can’t afford to get lost in the detail. You have to keep things simple and relevant, or your internal client will just get frustrated and stop listening to you!

What does your role at BAE Systems Submarines entail?
I am very lucky to have a hugely varied role. BAE Systems Submarines is an extremely complicated business and encounters a vast range of legal issues. The largest element of my work load is advising on commercial contracts. These include multi-billion pound submarine manufacturing contracts with UK government, and some very large and complicated arrangements with our suppliers. We are a Nuclear Site, so we are highly regulated, and there are also any number of complex legal and regulatory issues associated with our products. Plus we have a workforce of over 8000 people, which brings a multitude of legal challenges!

What’s the most enjoyable aspect of your job?
Our products are amazing. It’s great to see a tangible output from all the hard work and effort our workforce puts in, including the lawyers. I also get to work with people with a wide range of skills and experience, and I have learned a huge amount from seeing the varying approaches and perspectives people from different backgrounds and disciplines bring to the business.

You’re currently recruiting for a Senior Legal Counsel; what kind of work will the successful candidate be undertaking?
It’s a busy time for us as BAE Systems Submarines is currently delivering the Royal Navy’s seven Astute class nuclear submarines as well as the Dreadnought Deterrent Programme which is the replacement programme for the UK’s four Vanguard class Trident ballistic-missile armed submarines. The role is incredibly diverse and will include; providing in-depth, professional and proactive legal support and advice to all functions within the Submarines business; drafting, negotiating, agreeing and managing a wide range of contractual arrangements with customers, suppliers and industry partners; and advising on a variety of legal and regulatory compliance issues. This is a senior role within the business and will involve regular board and senior management level interaction. The key thing is that the role will be varied, exciting and dynamic!

What kind of candidate are you looking for?
A senior lawyer with a solid corporate or commercial contracts background, either from private practice or another in-house department. We are a small team, so personality fit is really important. He/she will need to be enthusiastic, persistent, patient and pretty robust!

How is the legal team structured?
We have a Chief Counsel, who sits on the BAES Submarines Board. As Senior Counsel, I report to him and currently have a team consisting of two Counsels and a trainee.

What opportunities for career development are on offer?
The position offers great opportunities for personal development. I have certainly acquired new skills and greatly increased the breadth of my expertise since coming into the role. As well as opportunities for development and progression within BAE Systems Submarines, opportunities for progression do also arise within the wider BAE Systems Group legal function.

Can you sum up why BAE Systems Submarines is a good place to work?
It is varied, challenging, exciting and a lot of fun.

Finally, any words of wisdom for fellow lawyers who are considering in-house as a career path?
Give it a go. It gives you a totally different perspective on the law. Plus, it’s great to be able to outsource some of the boring stuff!

For further information on the Senior Legal Counsel role at BAE Systems Submarines, please call Mark Levine.