UK law firms bid online for GE work

UK law firms are engaged in an online bidding war for General Electric (GE) Commercial Finance work, becoming the first country in Europe to test-drive the US company’s electronic lawyer selection process.

It is understood that within the past two weeks a handful of UK and US firms have submitted information to the financial services division of the conglomerate.

GE Commercial Finance, the division formerly known as GE Capital, introduced its online process for choosing law firms in the US late last year in a bid to cut costs and increase its choice of advisers.
Historically, Weil Gotshal & Manges has been the company’s main legal adviser in the US.

In the UK, GE has used a number of firms, including among others Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Slaughter and May.

So far in the UK, at least six law firms have been asked to submit data on fee rates, areas of expertise and knowledge of the structurally complex company.

It is believed that for the next stage, GE Commercial Finance will select law firms for different ‘products’, for example, leasing. A number will then compete with each other for mandates in different ‘bidding rooms’.

It is expected that there will be between 10 and 20 different product areas.

The online initiative is being spearheaded by Keith Morgan, general counsel of GE Commercial Finance. At this stage, it is only the financial services division, one of four groups under the GE umbrella, that is selecting firms in this manner.

While the process is only being rolled out in the UK at the moment, it is widely expected that GE Commercial Finance will introduce the system throughout the rest of Europe.

Weil Gotshal last month relocated senior regulatory and antitrust partner Carl Lobell from New York to Paris. Lobell has acted for GE for more than 30 years and has worked exclusively for the company since 1985.

GE was unavailable for comment.