In-House Legal Panel Review
Experience: I have worked in the legal procurement area since 2003, and managed panel reviews for both the public sector – the Legal Aid Agency and Royal Mail/ Post Office – and the private sector – Royal Mail, post-privatisation. I have written a suite of articles for Practical Law on this topic in both 2020 and 2021 here.
I completed Royal Mail’s legal panel reviews under three successive General Counsel from 2010 to 2018 – each result different depending on the requirements of the time. I carried out three full scale legal panel reviews during 2018 and 2019, two in the public sector (for large household names) and one for a FTSE 250 plc. Each panel review was tailored to the GC’s specific requirements. I am working on one panel ‘refresh’ and another full panel review during 2021 and 2022, both projects interlinked with other legal operations workstreams.
Scope of work: I will manage the panel review from beginning to end, if required – from discussing strategy and options to project managing the entire exercise on your behalf and drafting the tender and/or contract documentation, liaising with Group Procurement where necessary. I have extensive experience of drafting and negotiating panel agreements and ways of working protocols with legal services suppliers. I am familiar with public procurement law and will work with your in-house procurement lawyer and procurement team to ensure the exercise complies with your obligations and practices.
Strategy: I am very much in favour of making the exercise fit the issue. I will work with you to establish what it is exactly you are after. It may be that you don’t need a full panel review (a time-consuming project) but rather a ‘panel refresh’. The standard system usually advocated by procurement teams is for a 3-4 year cycle of panel reviews, arguably reviewing simply for review’s sake. I believe the GC should very much set the tone here, and enter into bespoke contracts that fit the requirement (subject to public sector obligations naturally).
The question may be more around how to best optimise your relationship with your external providers. A quick review or refresh may be more appropriate (and less work) than a full panel review – if this fits with your strategy. You may simply wish to bring the odd additional firm on board with suitable terms. However, if you are seeking genuine change with your outside counsel and also looking for cost savings/better value-adds, a full panel review is really the only way you will achieve this.
In my view, the focus should not be on merely obtaining cheaper rates but on working with providers who can offer you the most efficient and effective ways of working. Let’s talk about output rather than input.
Options: I will discuss all the possibilities available in today’s market place. Traditional law firms are no longer your only choice. Alternative legal services providers/law companies, technology providers and hiring Counsel directly are some additional options. Your buying power has increased dramatically, and any procurement strategy should reflect this. What work do you wish to outsource, how and why? Where appropriate, I’m in favour of GCs forming longer term, genuine partnership/collaborative arrangements with their suppliers. This all needs careful thought and analysis as part of your strategic thinking.