3i review leaves Birmingham out in the cold and panel under pressure

Private equity giant 3i is planning to disband its Birmingham legal department.

A well placed source has told The Lawyer that the shock move is part of the strategy to shift 3i’s legal power to its London headquarters, being implemented by director of legal services David Dench.

Tony Brierley, 3i’s company secretary and executive committee member, said in a prepared statement: “3i legal services is consolidating its UK resource of 20 lawyers into one location, at its Waterloo Road headquarters, to best support it’s international business. This is not about headcount or cost reduction and we will be recruiting as necessary, to maintain our current level of resource.”

The source told The Lawyer: “Historically, the London legal team was a tiny minnow and Birmingham was where all the decisions were made. Ultimately, what 3i is trying to do is to move away from transactional lawyers to people who can manage external lawyers.”

Another source said that 3i’s five Birmingham-based lawyers were given until last Thursday (8 January) to decide if they wanted to relocate to the FTSE 100 private equity house’s Waterloo offices.

It is unclear how the overhaul of 3i’s legal department will impact on its relationship with external lawyers. But it is understood that the private equity house is undertaking a strategic review of how it buys and uses both external and in-house legal advice.

The 3i panel comprises Addleshaw Goddard, Maclay Murray & Spens, Macfar-lanes, Osborne Clarke and Wragge & Co. Slaughter and May acts as primary corporate counsel.