BT extends panel term for Bird & Bird, CMS and Freshfields

BT has given Bird & Bird, CMS Cameron McKenna and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer an extra year on its commercial panel before it carries out a review originally due for next month.

The decision comes as the telecommunications giant announces the hire of Taylor Wessing senior associate Andrew Johnson as its new head of the real estate legal team, with the property lawyer joining on 20 March tasked with reviewing external firms’ relationships.

The commercial panel was up for reconsideration in March after the trio were appointed three years ago, but BT has made use of its right to extend the engagements by 12 months.

The 2009 panel annoucement gave a new place to CMS Cameron McKenna, but saw Addleshaw Goddard and Linklaters knocked off the roster (30 September 2009).

A BT spokesperson said: “In 2009 BT engaged Bird &  Bird, CMS Cameron McKenna and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer for a three-year term. The terms of those engagements each contained a right to extend the contract by 12 months.

“BT is pleased to announce that it has extended the contracts for each of those firms by the full 12 months.”

Chief counsel James Ratcliffe told The Lawyer: “We will be conducting a full review of the panel in line with our legal strategy.” The review will take place in March 2013.

The panel process will be carried out by Miles Jobling, head of the company’s international litigation and employment practice group. Jobling is the senior sponsor of the panel project on the ‘legal leadership’ team, a group comprising different parts of the BT legal team. Steph Sharp, a senior commercial lawyer at the company, is running the day-to-day process of the review.

The final arbiter is group general counsel Dan Fitz, who replaced Anne Fletcher as BT’s group general counsel in 2010 after Fletcher had been at the telecommunciations giant for 24 years (22 March 2010). Fitz was previously general counsel at software provider Misys after joining from Cable & Wireless (10 September 2003).

Separately, new hire Johnson will be tasked with carrying out a full review of the strategy of the real estate panel, including a review of external relationships. The Lawyer flagged the real estate panel review in September (26 September 2011).

The last real estate panel review in 2009, in which Bird & Bird, Cripps Harries Hall, HBJ Gateley Wareing, Trowers & Hamlins and Wright Hassall won places, was unique for its use of an e-auction, which is expected to be repeated next time. It is not expected to be extended to the main commercial panel review. BT also operates a large litigation panel.