RNLI appoints new chair as it looks to ‘evolve search and rescue capability’

RNLI chairperson Janet LeGrand

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has appointed Janet Legrand KC (Hon) as its new chair.

Legrand, who has had an extensive legal career and performed the role of chair for numerous other not-for-profit organisations, commenced her role with the RNLI on 26 January 2023, taking over from Janet Cooper OBE, who has been acting chair for the past six months.

Legrand will work alongside the charity’s board of trustees and deputy chairs Janet Cooper and Fiona Fell. 

Cooper says: “The chair is an important, strategic voluntary position and we’re very excited to welcome Janet Legrand into the role following a thorough recruitment process. In seeking a new chair, we looked to the future of the RNLI, the need to evolve our search and rescue capability with technological and environmental changes, and our increasing scope of activity in drowning prevention. Janet was an outstanding candidate due to her wealth of professional expertise, excellent volunteer experience and strategic mindset

“As chair of the RNLI, Janet will provide strategic guidance to a unique and complex organisation – a charity and emergency service, heavily reliant on volunteers to provide a 24/7 search and rescue service around the UK and Ireland. With 238 lifeboat stations, over 245 lifeguarded beaches, and domestic and international water safety programmes, the RNLI is saving more lives in more ways and in more places than ever before.

Legrand’s 40-year legal career has included senior roles at law firm DLA Piper, serving for 20 years on the firm’s partnership board, and being appointed Queen’s counsel honoris causa in 2018. 

Outside of her legal career, Legrand is a senior lay member of court at The University of Edinburgh and a member of the board of Advance HE and of the advisory board of IntoUniversity. She has recently come to the end of her term as chair of the trustee board of The Children’s Society. 

“Janet brings extensive experience of chairing large organisations, working with diverse groups, and helping organisations deliver a charitable mission while evolving and responding to challenges. Her understanding of the worlds of education and volunteering, as well as her commitment to diversity and equality will be of huge benefit to the charity as we approach our 200th year and during a time when demand for our services is higher than ever.”

Commenting on her appointment to the position with the RNLI, Legrand says: “I am thrilled to take on the role of chair at the RNLI – I admire the charity’s volunteer ethos, lifesaving cause and values of selflessness, courage, dependability and courageousness. While the lifesaving service provided by the RNLI makes it quite different to any organisation I have previously been involved with, my experience of governance with other complex not-for-profit organisations will be brought to the fore in this role. 

“From my time spent at the coast, I am well aware of the RNLI’s crucial search and rescue services and, having been a competitive swimmer in my youth, I recognise the importance of the charity’s drowning prevention and water safety work, both in the UK and internationally.

“The RNLI has a remarkable nearly 200-year history, and I feel honoured and excited to be able to play a role in guiding this wonderful charity into the start of its third century, maintaining its important traditions while helping to shape it to meet the increasing demands on its modern-day lifesaving service.”

Stuart Popham CMG KC (Hon), stepped down from the role in July 2022 after nearly six years. RNLI deputy chair Janet Cooper has been fulfilling the roles of co-chair (July 2021 to July 2022) and acting chair (since July 2022).

RNLI Chief Executive, Mark Dowie, says: “I would like to express immense gratitude to Stuart Popham for the dedication and commitment he has shown the RNLI during his time as chair and in his previous roles with the charity. He has brought invaluable experience and expertise which has provided the charity with steady and assured leadership.”

Fiona Fell has been recently appointed as deputy chair, replacing Eddie Donaldson OBE who stepped down from his roles of deputy chair and treasurer in July 2022. Jim Islam has been appointed as Treasurer.

Image courtesy of RNLI/Nathan Williams.

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