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King’s College London is to establish its first legal panel, posing a potential threat to Herbert Smith’s long relationship with the university.
King’s College, which has an annual legal spend of around £1m, has invited 13 firms, including Eversheds, Herbert Smith, Mills & Reeve and Pinsents, to participate in a beauty parade.
Wragge & Co developed a relationship with King’s College following the appointment of former Herbert Smith partner Gerald Bland as national chairman of the firm’s real estate department. Bland teamed up with his former Herbert Smith colleagues to help resolve the high-profile fight over ‘Block Nine’, a prized London site owned by the college.
Firms have been asked to pitch in relation to discrete practice areas, including IP and IT, employment and real estate. The panel, which should be set up by August, is expected to consist of five or six firms.
It is understood that Herbert Smith, which has historically advised King’s College on all areas of law, has only been shortlisted to advise on property work alongside two other firms.
Herbert Smith real estate partner Martin Dawbney, who manages the firm’s relationship with King’s College, argued that the move will not have a big impact on the volume of work it handles. “We welcome the move, because it enables us to focus on areas where we can serve our client the best,” he said.
A spokesperson for King’s College said the panel was being launched to ensure that the university had advisers with specialist experience in particular areas.