A year ago this week

Axa suspends Berrymans and Kennedys from litigation work

The Lawyer revealed that Axa Insurance had suspended Berrymans Lace Mawer and Kennedys from handling litigation claims for the company after failing an audit.

In a letter dated 10 January 2000, Axa's external legal advisers were informed that as part of Axa's legal review, Berrymans' London office and Kennedys' Brentwood, Essex branch had been suspended from the panel.

The suspension was due to an audit which found that the two firms failed to comply with certain protocols set out by Axa for panel firms which handle high-volume insurance litigation claims.

The suspension, which lasted six months, was eventually lifted in July but only after passing another audit.

This followed reports in May that the insurance giant had demanded cash rebates from many of its panel firms for overcharging, particularly in the area of litigation claims work. The rebates for one firm were said to have been as high as £50,000.

Despite these problems, both Berrymans and Kennedys have retained their places on Axa's panel.

Peter Charlton named managing partner of Clifford Chance London

Following the shock departure of managing partner Tony Williams to Andersen Legal, Clifford Chance announced the appointment of Peter Charlton as managing director of its London office.

In 1997, Williams beat Charlton to the position of managing partner. Charlton's former role as executive partner of the firm's London corporate group was assumed by partner Matthew Layton.

Charlton has just completed his first year as head of the London office, during which time the firm has moved to Canary Wharf and completed a merger with Italian firm Grimaldi.

DLA-Bird Semple merger put on hold

DLA (then Dibb Lupton Alsop) and Scottish firm Bird Semple were forced to put their planned merger on hold.

The firms were understood to have delayed the tie-up because Bird Semple's senior private client equity partners were unhappy that as a condition of the merger DLA wanted their department to be split up.

In March, an agreement to break up the private client department was finally reached and the first major Scotland-England merger was concluded on 2 May.

The first nine months of DLA's Scottish office have been mixed. In October, media and entertainment partner Derek Currie left for rival Scottish firm Burness but in November associate Andrina Murray joined the retail estate group from Semple Fraser.