Bradford & Bingley is setting up its first ever formal legal panel for corporate and commercial work.
The bank currently uses a number of firms on an ad hoc basis, but it will now instruct only those firms that make it onto the panel.
Last year Bradford & Bingley, which demutualised late last year, slashed its panel for bulk legal work from 30 advisers to three - Addleshaw Booth & Co, Hammond Suddards Edge and Kennedys (The Lawyer, 24 January).
Head of legal Paul Jordan is beginning the same process for commercial work. Different parts of the business presently maintain their own relationships, with firms instructed including DLA, Wragge & Co, Eversheds and Walker Morris.
Jordan says: "It's really just a tidying up exercise in the sense that as a group, Bradford & Bingley has acquired various new parts. We're just trying to coordinate the position in terms of legal advice, looking at which parts of the group use which firms, the same way we've done it previously with bulk work.
"It means we can develop relationships with those firms, and value is added because we can have regular meetings - they know about what we're doing and we know more about what they're doing. If there are any problems, we can nip them in the bud, and we can share intranet technology to communicate with each other."
He says that building strong relationships with firms is only possible if the panel is narrowed down, but that it is too early to say how many firms will be culled.
The commercial panel will handle most of the work, particularly commercial property and employment. The bulk work panel covers professional negligence, mortgage reposessions and loss recovery.
The bank uses Herbert Smith for most of its high-end corporate work, and Jordan says that is unlikely to change. The firm advised on Bradford & Bingley's demutualisation and flotation in December, in a deal led by corporate partners Mark Satterly and Edward Walker-Arnott.
Firms will be approached to tender in the next couple of weeks, and the panel should be in place within the next few months.