Costs push Pilkington to North West firms

Glass manufacturer Pilkington is extending its City-orientated legal panel to include North West firms as the company reviews its legal services costs.

Pilkington, which is based in St Helens, has predominantly used Slaughter and May and Herbert Smith for its external legal requirements.

Pilkington's group legal adviser and general counsel Clyde Leff says: “We haven't generally retained other firms unless it is on a specific assignment but other than that we don't have a relationship with other firms apart from Slaughter and May and Herbert Smith.”

But Leff says that the company is currently using Addleshaw Booth & Co on a piece of work, and says that he intends to look further into using regional firms. He names cost as one of the main motivations behind the review. The company will use Hill Dickinson for insurance advice.

He says: “I fully intend to explore it. The cost of London counsel compared to North West counsel is comparatively high. If you are talking [about comparing] high quality firm to high quality firm there can be a 50 per cent up charge in City firms.”

Leff says that in some cases there is a 100 per cent disparity in fees when comparing Liverpool or Manchester firms to the City. And he says that in areas such as construction, local firms are able to provide the same high-quality advice as their London competitors.

Slaughters' senior corporate partner Rupert Beaumont, who heads the Pilkington relationship, says: “We have discussed this with the people at Pilkington from time to time, quite recently in fact, and we are not particularly surprised to hear them do this.”

Beaumont says that he does not think that the appointment of local firms will affect the level of work that the firm receives from the client.

Jeff Twentyman, a corporate partner at Slaughters, who also undertakes some work for Pilkington, says: “We haven't had an exclusive relationship with the company as it has used Herbert Smith for as long as I remember.” He adds: “I'd be surprised if North West firms hadn't been getting any work.”

Leff joined the firm in May last year after moving from the US where he worked at building materials manufacturer Owens Corning, which last year filed for insolvency procedure Chapter 11 in an attempt to cope with a flurry of asbestos-related law suits.

Addleshaws and Herbert Smith were unavailable for comment.