E-auction decides Abbey panel review

Abbey has used an innovative e-auction process for the first time to get the best deals from law firms pitching for its panel.

Abbey has used an innovative e-auction process for the first time to get the best deals from law firms pitching on last month’s panel review, The Lawyer can reveal.

Abbey business consultant Sophie Parkinson ran the e-auction on behalf of general counsel Karen Fortunato, supported by Aquanima, the procurement arm of Spanish bank Banco Santander, which bought Abbey in 2005.

Parkinson said: “It wasn’t necessarily the traditional way to do it, but the firms did show a willingness to fit in with us. It was a good way to see if the firms were innovative.”

Firms submitted quotes for the work online over the course of an afternoon. The participants could not see each other’s bids, but were able to see where they were ranked in a table listing the firms in order of competitiveness. The bidding ended after approximately three hours and each firm was given one more opportunity to change their bid. One firm had technical problems and so was allowed extra time.

Online bidding has a controversial history. In 2003 Royal Bank of Scotland sent letters of apology to its law firms after they complained about the squeeze on fees. One Forune 500 company auction had partners bidding against their own partners.

But Parkinson said there were no complaints this time around, adding: “Everyone was really positive about it and we didn’t have any grumbling at all.”

Abbey’s panel was divided into seven sections covering practice areas such as property, corporate, litigation and capital markets.

The likes of Ashurst, Eversheds and Norton Rose gained places alongside Addleshaw Goddard and Shoosmiths, which were both appointed for the first time.