Barclays panel delayed as bank moves away from biennial reviews

Barclays has delayed its panel review planned for this summer by 12 months as the banking giant embarks on a plan to scrap its practice of reassessing law firm rosters on a two-yearly basis.

The UK lender has extended the current terms of its panel and will next revisit the selection process in June 2014 after a revamp was previously scheduled for June 2013. The last two reviews were in 2009 and 2011.

The bank’s latest move marks a shift away from its biennial cycle of panel reviews and is thought to be related to the high volume of administrative work associated with running the tender process, as well as the market tendency for rivals to carry out their reviews at least every three years.

Barclays’ legal panel is one of the biggest in the country, containing more than 100 firms across a general advisory roster and 15 specialist sub-panels. The last review, which ended in June 2011, saw a growth in the number of sub-rosters and the addition of a specific panel of US firms to reflect the bank’s increasing stateside activity (1 July 2011).

The decision means another year on the general advisory panel for Addleshaw Goddard, Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, DLA Piper, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Hogan Lovells, Linklaters and Simmons & Simmons, as well as for US roster members Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Shearman & Sterling and Sullivan & Cromwell.

RBS’s most recent panel review, in the latter part of 2012, came at the end of a three-year term for firms, with the group’s previous roster revamp also falling three years earlier (2 October 2012).

However, Lloyds Banking Group’s own-account panel review, completed by early November last year, was the second in two years (2 November 2012). HSBC’s reviews are far less frequent or regular (6 September 2012).

Lloyds’ customer-pay panel is expected to be reviewed imminently.

Meanwhile, General Electric (GE) is close to finalising its European roster review, launched towards the end of last year (29 October 2012). The company is understood to be planning to slash the number of panel firms by around half and demand deep fee cuts from advisers.

A law firm partner commented: “I can say they’re being aggressive in terms of asking us to cut. GE is saying everyone else is cutting, we expect you to too.”

Barclays was unavailable for comment. GE declined to comment.

For more on the Barclays legal panel, see feature.