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“It’s fantastic”: how Obelisk is delivering flexible legal services for the world’s leading online grocer

Ocado is the world’s biggest online-only grocery platform. Pioneering technology combined with customer focus have led to the company being poised to make a dramatic difference to the shopping habits of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, both through their own brand and by providing solutions and technology to retailers across the globe. With the company prioritising the development of their own IP, entering into new joint ventures and continuing the pace of innovation, Ocado’s legal team needs to be agile, expert and ready for anything.

In keeping with the spirit of the business, the legal team at Ocado is both pioneering and has a keen eye for maximising efficiency. Based at the company’s headquarters at Hatfield, the team, led by General Counsel & Company Secretary Neill Abrams, has dedicated areas focusing on employment, commercial, property, construction, transactions, IP and legal operations. The team has been designed to provide the services the business needs with minimal need for recourse to external law firms. As Jonathan Wiseman, Deputy General Counsel, comments,

“The point is for us to anticipate and deliver on what the wider business needs, in the most efficient way possible. This means we look carefully at the skills and expertise we need to deliver the work required and plan ahead to make sure we have the optimal resources in place.”

The fast pace of operations at Ocado, and the emphasis on innovation, means that the legal team has to be nimble, which is where Obelisk Support comes in. “We have been working with Obelisk since 2018 to provide us with legal services that we can flex up or down as we need to”, says Jonathan.

“Whether we have permanent staff out on leave, planned projects that we don’t want to distract the core team with or unforeseen new work, having a relationship with Obelisk means that we can quickly and easily increase our productivity in line with the business’s requirements.”

Obelisk’s innovative approach to providing flexible legal services chimed with Ocado’s own outlook, as Debbie Tembo, Obelisk’s Client Relationship Director, explains, “Obelisk has been a pioneer in legal service delivery since 2010. We’ve invested in building our own technology platform to help match clients like Ocado with the consultants from our network who are best-placed to deliver their services in terms of skills and previous experience. This means that we can make intelligent connections quickly, putting the right people in place fast.”

With over 1,000 consultants in their network, Obelisk is able to offer quality services across 18 practice areas, giving the coverage of specialisms a full-service in-house team needs. For Ocado, this means that within 24 hours of raising a request, they’ve been able to select consultants with previous experience from top firms such as Pinsent Mason and Norton Rose and in-house teams at BT and Hootsuite. “Our consultants work 100% remotely, after an initial settling in period spent getting to know the team at Ocado”, adds Debbie, “They manage their own time and workload, often working outside traditional business hours, which in effect gives the team at Ocado a longer working day.”

All the consultants Obelisk supplies are pre-vetted, so they have trained with a City firm or equivalent and have plenty of in-house experience, which means they start to deliver from day one in a client’s team.

As Jonathan explains,

“The Obelisk service has been a fantastic godsend. Work is picked up and turned around fast, by an experienced consultant who has really got to know us and our clients & partners. If we need extra help, we have Obelisk’s number and we know they can deliver. Plus the fact that their services are delivered by remote-working consultants means we’re not constrained by issues such as desk-space, equipment or the drain on our time of managing a secondee – rather we can rely on our consultants from Obelisk to get the work we need done, when we need it. The service is easy to set up, helps us deliver on our goals for the business and is truly flexible.”

Sample project:

  • Commercial work delivered on-demand, including contract negotiation and review, advice on compliance and drafting of precedent contracts.
  • Delivered by an ex-Norton Rose lawyer with 16 years of experience at a variety of technology clients.
  • First connection made within 24 hours of job request being raised.
  • Work delivered 100% remotely, with communication with the Ocado client teams via conference call and email.

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