Freshfields conspicuous by absence as M&S invites panel pitches

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer will be specifically excluded from Marks & Spencer’s (M&S) review of external advisers after the firm was barred from acting for Philip Green on the entrepreneur’s failed bid for the retailer last summer.

It is understood that M&S, which started a review of its advisers last week, will not be inviting Freshfields to pitch for a place on its panel.

Although Freshfields was not M&S’s principal adviser, the company is expected to invite all its other firms to participate in the process – plus possibly one that the retailer has not instructed in the past. The company is already talking to relationship partners about the mechanics of the review, such as fee structures.

Currently, M&S’s principal corporate adviser is Slaughter and May, which helped the retailer fend off Green’s bid. M&S also has relationships with Allen & Overy, Bond Pearce, Denton Wilde Sapte, Jones Maidment Wilson, Osborne Clarke, SJ Berwin and Wragge & Co. According to an interview with M&S legal head Robert Ivens in The Lawyer in late 2003, Freshfields was one of a number of advisers on the M&S roster.

The review is being driven by M&S’s desire to cut costs and to ensure that the retail giant is getting quality of service from its external lawyers. On Friday 7 January M&S issued a profits warning.

Both M&S and Freshfields declined to comment.