Internet business NetNames gears up for first-ever panel review

NetNames is preparing for its first-ever review of its external legal services providers, with a reduction of firms used by the internet domain names registrar looking likely.

Currently NetNames instrusts around a dozen firms across the eight international markets in which it is present. In the UK it currently works primarily with Dentons, K&L Gates, Baker Botts and Linklaters.

However, Linklaters’ position as its go to firm for large-scale corporate and finance work is looking uncertain following the exit of former relationship partner Richard Youle, the private equity lawyer who left the firm for White & Case last year (17 October 2013).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Private equity-backed NetNames is an Hg Capital portfolio company. Last month Hg shook up its panel, adding White & Case to its roster for the first time following the arrival of Youle (18 March 2014).

NetNames group general counsel Andy Southam confirmed he anticipated there being changes to the UK roster, but said there had been no decision so far as to whether he would favour White & Case over Linklaters in the future.

“White & Case loaned me a secondee for a discreet regulatory issue in February which was really helpful,” added Southam. “I would imagine I will work with W&C at some juncture. [But the choice of firm] really depends on a variety of factors.”

Southam said the primary purpose of the review was to get better cost consistency across external spend as well as better service generally.

“We use two sets of lawyers in places for the same thing which doesn’t make sense,” said Southam. “We’re looking to get better value from external spend, for example could we place more [work] with one firm and get a better rate? We’re also looking to see who has industry expertise that perhaps our current lawyers don’t have. Domain law is quite niche, albeit it touches on a variety of traditional areas.”

NetNames has never before reviewed its external roster of law firms. As reported in The Lawyer profile of Southam last week (24 March 2014), the former DLA Piper lawyer joined last summer and has spent the months since his arrival assessing how the current group of external firms service NetNames.

“It made sense to keep them whilst I got settled and understood the business more,” said Southam.    

NetNames’ GC confirmed the review, which will be starting later this month, will cover UK and non-UK firms.

“At this stage, I have identified a list of requirements and expertise that we need and am fashioning that into a paper which I can send out for review by external advisers,” said Southam. “I then just want to meet people informally and talk through the requirements, how we might work together, fee and charging structures and so on.”