THE FUTURE of the 2005 Australian Law Awards in-house team of the year is in doubt, as WMC Resources staff undergo interviews with BHP Billiton in the wake of the recent takeover.
It was a bittersweet victory for WMC Resources general manager legal and company secretary, Peter Horton, when he accepted the in-house team award for the second year running, with the knowledge that his time with the department was limited and the 11 other members, including last year’s Young Gun Victoria Strong, were uncertain about their positions.
As with most departments, BHP has begun interviewing members of the in-house team to determine whether it has positions available for them. “I don’t know how many will be getting jobs, I certainly won’t,” Horton said. “There’s one of me here and one of me over there.”
Horton said he would remain with the company during the transition period, but was hopeful that a large number of the legal team would be offered jobs with BHP. He said the team worked well together but most importantly was a “team that knows what to do”.
This was reflected by the fact that companies the team had dealt with had called to inform Horton they would be voting for WMC in the law awards. To have “parties on the other side of the transaction who think you’ve done a good job” was a tremendous vote of confidence, he said.
BHP intended to have the interview process and round of offers completed by the end of the month, however some departments would possibly hear of their fate earlier than others. He said it was likely WMC’s two lawyers in Perth and one in Adelaide would stay where they were, while those in Melbourne would also stay in that location for the immediate future if they were offered positions.
Horton’s future remains up in the air, but he has had “a few approaches and certainly some are very interesting at this stage”. He said there were opportunities both within the resources sector and in other areas. “I guess I will just see what’s available around the traps and maybe have a holiday.”
Horton said after more than 11 years with the company, he could take “a little of the credit for building a fantastic legal department” and it would be sad to see it dismantled. “But in today’s corporate world, that’s life.”