Robert Higgins, who joined the NDA last autumn (The Lawyer, 6 July 2009), is to appoint advisers along practice group lines, overhauling the current system, which has a geographical emphasis.
As a result, for the first time local and national firms will compete against each other for the same work.
Under the current system the panel is divided into three parts, with national, local and projects focuses. The new system will see the creation of a list of firms for general advice together with two specialist panels, one for HR/employment law advice and another for IT procurement.
Current advisers to the government body, which oversees the multibillion-pound clean-up of the UK’s nuclear sites, are Brodies, Burges Salmon, Burness, Cartmell Shepherd, DLA Piper, Field Fisher Waterhouse, Herbert Smith, HFT Gough & Co and Norton Rose.
Higgins commented: “There’s no reason that local firms shouldn’t qualify for general advice; [equally] there’s no reason to separate out projects work.” He added that he would be “constituting a small panel” in a bid to keep volumes of work high for all advisers.
The revamp differs from the plan put forward by interim head of legal Roger Clayson, who last year wanted to merge the national and projects panels. His plans were put on hold after Higgins’ appointment was made.
The tender process will complete by the spring.