5 minutes with … Alexandra Smyth, General Counsel


Most lawyers go through their whole career having never looked at a ‘force majeure’ clause, which typically cancels a contract if there is a natural disaster or act of terror. Many such clauses were invoked across RX Global at the start of the pandemic placing the legal team at the heart of the business response.

“It is certainly a once in a lifetime experience” says Alex, who took up her post as RX Global General Counsel mid-pandemic on July 1, has spent only spent two days in the office so far (both wearing a face mask), and has yet to visit an event!

As General Counsel, Alex is responsible for uniting and overseeing the legal function across RX Global’ global business. Her experience and deep understanding in many legal areas will be crucial as we navigate the ‘new normal’ and continue to develop our business globally.

Before joining RX Global, Alex spent seven and a half years as General Counsel for corporate and M&A in RELX, working alongside the corporate finance team and overseeing the legal aspects of all acquisitions and disposals across RELX globally.  So what, in her eyes, makes a good General Counsel?

“You have to consider yourself a member of management but with a legal slant, rather than a lawyer” she maintains. “You can’t do a good job in a business role if people think of you as the ‘enforcer’. The legal viewpoint is one perspective amongst many and you must be seen as someone that people can consult and collaborate with. Of course, there are times when legal trumps everything but most of the time it is about balancing risk.”

In the midst of a global crisis, Alex says it is more vital than ever that to have a consistent and holistic approach to the global legal function. “Having access to a global network of legal colleagues makes it much easier to tackle issues as they arise, by sharing knowledge and experiences” she says. “One of our goals is to harmonise the terms and conditions for our events across the world to the extent that it is possible. Of course, the law may be slightly different for each country, but the principles of negotiating customer contracts, for example, are the same wherever you are.”

Another of Alex’s priorities is the introduction of a new contract life cycle management (CLM) system to automate and streamline the entire contract process, from initiation, through virtual signing to issue and storage in a central electronic repository. “Prior to my joining RX Global, Reed MIDEM had already taken significant steps down this road, and their legal team is helping us all understand their systems and processes, to help speed up the implementation of CLM company-wide” she reveals.

Greater use of digital tools and data analytics has long been part of RX Global’ plan, but has been accelerated by Covid. What are the legal implications for the business? “Innovation is the life blood of our events, but we need to support digital creativity whilst also managing risk. Much of my previous role with RELX was around data analytics which are not as tangible as exhibitions and legally more complex” she says. “There are also complex sets of laws around data capture, management and usage which we must all be increasing mindful of. It’s all about getting the balance right.”

Covid is going nowhere soon, but several of RX Global’ businesses are once again holding live events. What are her thoughts on reopening shows from a legal perspective?

“We have a robust set of global protocols in place which each team has to check off before they can reopen” Alex replies. “Each jurisdiction has slightly different rules, but our approach at RX Global is to be the high water mark – to do the maximum possible to try to keep people safe. The cost of doing this isn’t small but it’s a price worth paying to prevent a Covid outbreak at one of our events. From a personal perspective, I can’t wait to attend my first Reed exhibition!”

In the meantime, Alex is making the most of lockdown in London with her partner Chris, and dogs Crumpet and Bentley: “I am very fond of the London Christmas lights and while we are allowed out for walks, plan to at least go and see them every day – not too hard when it is dark at 4pm!”