At the start of the year, the food and leisure industry emerged fresh from the £1.26bn sale of United Biscuits to an international consortium, the merger of brewer Scottish & Newcastle and the Danone Group, and the marriage of Guinness and Grand Metropolitan.
With massive consolidation sweeping the sector, in-house teams are on the lookout for external lawyers. But the money-conscious companies demand value for money and will go to great lengths to find the best lawyers for the lowest price.
The industry is characterised by in-house teams using systematic methods to evaluate lawyers. Lists of preferred and approved suppliers are used and the companies continually streamline the process.
Scottish & Newcastle, for example, has an intranet system by which every person who comes into contact with outside lawyers can evaluate the services they receive online. This allows the company secretary to keep track of exactly what the advisers are doing and how well they are doing it.
Regional firms are favoured in a sector looking for technical ability, responsiveness, lower costs and personalities. While the City is called in on big corporate deals, when it comes to the frequent complexities of regulation and competition, specialist regional players are often used.
But a quick response is also an advantage and the bigger firms tend to be in the lead here. Individuals with specialist knowledge are in high demand, and if they are outside London, they are guaranteed to start picking up work in this increasingly regulated sector.