After an extensive international career, Pierrick Le Goff now occupies the position previously held by the person who hired him a quarter of a century ago. Alstom Group general counsel since 2015, his projects include the upcoming merger between Alstom and Siemens Mobility.
LEADERS LEAGUE.How is the legal department organized within Alstom?
Pierrick Le Goff. We consider the legal function in a large and operational way. We have four dedicated activities: “classical” legal matters, contract management, compliance, and intellectual property. All are part of the legal department. Linking these functions, representing 300 employees in total, is quite out of the ordinary but remains rooted in Alstom’s history. We also function regionally with six legal directors based in six different geographical zones.
What changes will the Siemens merger bring to your department?
The merger is 2018’s flagship operation for our department and will keep us all very busy up to the end of the year, when it’s expected to close. With this merger, Alstom is going to double in size. The organization of the upcoming legal department is yet to be defined, but combining both teams will, for sure, increase our workforce and create opportunities worldwide.
Inevitably a company of Alstom’s stature faces disputes. What is specific about litigation in the rail industry?
I believe Alstom’s specificity in litigation is linked to the complexity of the disputes we deal with. We are involved in numerous infrastructure and construction projects. They are significant in terms of size, money, duration, number of actors involved, and most of the time there is an international dimension. Therefore, these projects involve complex, longterm contracts with high stakes. This complexity may create friction, leading to disputes often concerning project delays for which the parties disagree on the rootcause and seek compensation through judicial proceedings.
‘‘In complex litigation we call upon external counsels and claim experts’’
In what instances do you refer to outside counsel?
When we face this type of complex litigation, we solicit our best in-house lawyers and also call upon litigation counsel and claims experts: forensic claims managers as well as financial experts making cost estimations.
What major legal changes have you seen since the beginning of your career?
I would say the most significant legal change in my career is the increasing role played by compliance over the years. In light of ethical rules and codes of good conduct applicable either through bar membership or corporate counsel associations, in-house counsel are very well placed to deal with ethical issues. This is the reason why we decided a few years ago to combine the legal and compliance functions within one single department, which is not the case everywhere. Alstom is highly involved in promoting innovation, with the acquisition of Nomad Digital in 2016 a clear example.
What place does technology occupy in the company’s legal activities?
I believe that technology should be used to facilitate the administrative aspect of the legal function, and therefore permit experts to free their time for the strategic management of cases. There is one domain in which robots and artificial intelligence cannot yet replace humans: emotional intelligence. Inherent to human nature, this skill is notably used in the legal sector to facilitate transactional operations and alternative dispute resolution.
Interview by CG