Conflicts force Rotch to expand legal panel

Herbert Smith, Lovells, Norton Rose, SJ Berwin, Wragges to benefit from review

Real estate conglomerate Rotch is looking at a number of new advisers after setting up its first panel last year.
Herbert Smith, Lovells, Norton Rose, SJ Berwin and Wragge & Co all stand to gain as group counsel Meena Heath looks to carve up Rotch's annual £5m legal spend between a wider variety of tried and tested firms. Heath wants to provide Rotch with sufficient choice of advisers in the event of conflicts. Rotch, known for its clever financial engineering, tends to engage in complex deals, often involving five external advisers, so conflicts are common.
Heath has kept the panel under constant review since selecting her first eight firms last year. She said: “The problem is conflicts, which is why the panel is so big to start with and will continue to expand.
“With a property company the size of ours, the volume of deals we do and the complexity of those transactions, we're going to end up using most of the City firms. The panel is really for guidance rather than being rigid, and it's a way to formalise fee structures.”
Heath has a policy of using firms at least once before admitting them to the panel. As revealed by The Lawyer last week, Herbert Smith has just scored its first property deal for Rotch, advising on its £327m acquisition of Shell Mex House. Partner Chris de Pury led the Herbert Smith team for Rotch in the UK's largest single-building investment to date. Panel member Clifford Chance would have been an obvious choice, but was conflicted out because it was acting for the vendor.
Heath said: “We were very pleased with Chris de Pury and we hope to be able to use Herbert Smith again soon.”
Wragges is also currently working on a deal for Rotch, while SJ Berwin advised the property group in relation to a recent sale and leaseback. Heath is looking at Lovells, which has so far been conflicted on the deals she has put to it. Norton Rose is another possible addition, partly on the back of some work carried out for Rotch by its German office.
The existing eight panel firms are: Ashurst Morris Crisp (largely for telecoms work), Clifford Chance, Julian Holy, Macfarlanes, Memery Crystal, Osborne Clarke, Salans Hertzfeld & Heilbronn and Slaughter and May.