CC poised to woo back British Energy

Clifford Chance is hoping to muscle its way back onto British Energy's lucrative US law firm panel following its planned merger with Rogers & Wells next year.

The firm, which already advises British Energy in Europe and has branch offices in the US, was overlooked during a beauty parade two years ago.

Instead US firms Cravath Swaine & Moore and Morgan Lewis & Bockius were awarded the positions.

Robert Armour is the company secretary, general counsel and director of corporate affairs at British Energy. He says: “We pick different firms in the US, partly because we are a specialist niche in terms of nuclear regulatory law, and with the best will in the world that was not the skill in US regulatory law that Clifford Chance could bring to it.”

However, Armour says that he has now been invited by Clifford Chance to meet with the firm's US and German partners since both mergers were announced over the summer.

He says: “I think there are some aspects of the transactions in the US where we see Clifford Chance would be able to do a good job for us.

“It is slightly too early and it is still pretty new.

“They have merged in Germany and they have merged in the US.

“I will be delighted to meet the people involved and take a view on it.”

But Armour adds: “If Clifford Chance was strong in that market we would invite it to be part of that exercise, but it would have to convince us of that just to get a foot in the door.”

He says: “Branch offices themselves do not seem to be necessarily going to give you the best representation in the jurisdictions [they are based in].”

The firms are advisers on a US joint venture, AmerGen Energy, which British Energy formed with Philadelphia-based company PECO Energy in 1997.

Howard Meyers, business and finance partner at Morgan Lewis & Bockius, says he is not aware of any changes to the US line-up.

He adds: “I really do not have any comment other than to say clients of law firms are free to choose to talk to any prospective counsel.

“We provide an excellent service to AmerGen and are happy to let the work speak for itself.”

Clifford Chance and Cravath Swaine & Moore were unavailable to comment as The Lawyer went to press.

See client file, page 14