Pearson general counsel Bjarne Philip Tellmann receives his award from host Sally Phillips (left) and Kerry Philip, legal director at Vodaphone Global Enterprise (right)

Finalists: Imraan Patel, EG Group (highly commended); Kirsty Cooper, Aviva; Priti Shetty, ICICI Bank; Vicky Sandry, Sky UK (highly commended).

Pearson’s Bjarne Philip Tellmann was named general counsel of the year for overhauling the company’s legal team and culture, reducing controllable legal spend by almost half and saving millions of pounds on non-controllable spend such as M&A.

Tellmann reorganised the department by hiring and developing specialists to cover what he had identified as core legal risks, as well as generalists to oversee each of Pearson’s business groups and putting in place a strategic framework that allows his team to be proactive in anticipating and preventing potential problems.

He helped steer the company through a number of high-profile asset disposals, including the Financial Times and The Economist. He also handled multiple data privacy crises with zero liability and spearheaded efforts to tackle counterfeiters, resulting in substantial damage awards and shutting down illegal counterfeiting rings around the world.

In addition, Tellmann has developed a mentorship programme with the National Federation of the Blind, with Pearson lawyers mentoring disabled professionals.

He is also dedicated to legal education, serving on the alumni board at the University of Chicago and on its Law School Council, and is respected as one of the industry’s leading thinkers, underscored by his acclaimed book: Building an Outstanding Legal Team: Battle-Tested Strategies from a General Counsel.