The National Federation of Builders has drastically overhauled its legal panel following a review, introducing 13 new firms
The shake-up comes amid claims from former panel firms that the federation has started to levy charges for panel places. Six firms, including construction specialist Masons and national giants Wragge & Co and Bond Pearce, have been cut from the panel. The federation has shaken up its panel in order to increase its national coverage for members. There were 11 panel firms, but this has now increased to 16. John Bradley, acting head of legal at the federation, said that the new panel firms were chosen because they were either very strong in one particular geographical region or they covered many regions. The new firms are: Hammond Suddards Edge, Bevan Ashford, Addleshaw Booth & Co, Bond Pearce, Morgan Cole, Watson Burton, Hill Dickinson, Morgan Cole, Shoosmiths, Wright Hassall, Merricks, Prettys, Denison Till and Thomson Snell & Passmore. Bevan Ashford has emerged as a clear winner as it will work for members in all six regions covered by the federation - the South, West, East, North West, North East, Midlands and Wales. Hammonds will cover five of the regions but will not advise federation members in Wales. Firms no longer on the panel are: Masons, Wragge & Co, Bond Pearce, Reynolds Porter Chamberlain, Beachcroft Wansbroughs and Browne Jacobson. Some firms not on the panel declined to comment and some were unavailable for comment at the time of writing. Beachcrofts claimed that it lost its place because it was not prepared to pay the federation several thousands of pounds for the privilege. "We were invited to stay on the panel, but at a significant cost," said a spokesperson for the firm. The Lawyer understands that other firms were also asked to pay a fee to stay on the panel. Masons told The Lawyer that it had decided to withdraw from the panel this year, but did not disclose why. "Following discussions with our colleagues at the federation, we have agreed not to be on the panel this year," a spokesperson explained. Masons, though, still maintains strong links with the federation with a secondment arrangement together with a deal to offer limited free advice to its members.