BT panel firms tender for places via e-auction

BT has piloted an e-auction as part of the process of reviewing the firms on the real estate part of its external legal panel.

BT has piloted an e-auction as part of the process of reviewing the firms on the real estate part of its external legal panel.

Half a dozen firms, including members of the existing panel, participated in the auction, which saw firms advising the real estate legal department tender for places based on costs.

The results of the e-auction will inform how the telecoms giant conducts its company-wide panel review, which will be carried out in the next three to six months.

Ian Jones, head of BT’s real estate legal team, said the process had thrown up some interesting results, adding: “Defining the relationship between in-house counsel and external law firms is very much on the agenda.”

As well as costs, the panel review is looking at other aspects of the company’s relationship with external law firms, such as performance management standards that have been introduced to ensure that BT and law firms have a clearer idea of what quality of service means to both sides.

Jones added: “We wanted to look at the billable hour and have a more collaborative approach with our firms to  move beyond the traditional transactional, reactive relationship.

“The e-auction is not definitive but it is an important factor. We’re not beating up on law firms but we are continuing to look at ways where we can get more value for every pound.

“Some firms were surprised by the innovative action, but all have since got engaged.”

BT is the latest company to look specifically at costs as part of a panel review. After a panel review at ITV general counsel Andrew Garard dropped the use of billable hours in favour of fixed fees.

Currently, Addleshaw Goddard, Bird & Bird, HBJ Gateley Wareing and

Linklaters make up the general BT panel, while seven other firms are used for specialist advice.