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Top insurance companies such as Norwich Union and Axa are using the services of Weightmans' former chief executive to investigate possible overcharging by their panel law firms for bulk litigation work.
Professor Martin Read left Weightmans in July 1998 after just 18 months and set up his own consultancy, providing auditing services to clients.
Read is being retained by Norwich Union to investigate the cost and the quality of service provided by its firms.
One industry insider says: "It is auditing its firms to see the progression of the relationship and make sure that they are not overcharging by looking through the file records."
Norwich Union's firms include Weightmans, Greenwoods, Davies Arnold Cooper, Mills & Reeves, Beachcroft Wansbroughs and Keogh Ritson.
It is believed that Weightmans and Greenwoods have been through the audit process but no evidence of overcharging has been found.
One source says: "My understanding is that it is looking at value for money and quality of service."
Read is being employed by Axa to audit its legal advisers, resulting in the suspension of Berrymans Lace Mawer's London office and Kennedy's Brentwood offices for failing to comply with certain protocols (The Lawyer, 24 January).
Read and Norwich Union were unavailable for comment.