6 September 1999
In just over a week, Next will unveil its interim results to the City.
The figures are expected to reflect a positive year during which the company has maintained a healthy share price.
But Next's current profile is in sharp contrast to 1998, when the company issued a profits warning before it revealed a drop in revenues.
However, the retailer has now refocused by concentrating on its core business and ridding itself of its US, French and Belgian stores.
And it is slowing the acquisition drive which saw the company make a large number of purchases throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.
This change has inevitably affected the type of work which is outsourced to external law firms, especially the work Next gives to its corporate adviser, Simmons & Simmons.
Peter Webber, company secretary and head of legal at Next, says: "Since we sold the [mail order company] Grattan Group in 1991, we have not been involved in a huge amount of corporate activity.
"Having been very active in the 1980s, we did much less in the 1990s, so consequently the amount of work for Simmons & Simmons in M&A stuff has significantly declined."
However, Webber says the firm is still engaged on other corporate matters. "We use them for tax advice with a number of outside accountants," he says.
"If a large corporate matter came up it is likely we would use Simmons because we, like so many other people, see that there has been an amalgamation and build-up of provincial firms, but we still tend to use London lawyers for the big deals that come along."
Next's in-house team also engages Eversheds' Leeds office to advise on property and litigation law and to act for its customer services subsidiary Ventura, which is based in the area.
Webber says: "If you are going to use a provincial firm like Eversheds that have a number of firms like Jaques & Lewis [a London practice which merged with the firm in 1995] within their umbrella, then clearly they have a London presence.
"It is so much more convenient because since bankers, brokers and everyone else are in London, then we really do need a London firm."
Eversheds' Leeds office was recently responsible for providing legal advice on the purchase of two call centres on behalf of the company.
"But apart from that, all the conveyancing work which is done in relation to our stores, be it acquisitions or disposals, is all done in-house," says Webber.
The in-house team also handles a lot of employment and intellectual property work.
Webber says: "Because of the Next Directory, of which we send out well in excess of one million copies, we handle matters you would expect, such as intellectual property, copyright, trademarks and all the rest of it."
He adds: "Obviously in terms of trademarks, we work closely with our trademark agents, but effectively most of the work is handled in-house."
Internationally, the company has franchises in Malta and also has a presence in Hong Kong, Japan, Sri Lanka and Kuala Lumpur, where it is advised by Baker & McKenzie.
Webber says: "Baker & McKenzie has a stronger presence in the Far East and Pacific Basin than any other firm and it has been there for a lot longer.
"Everyone now is getting on the bandwagon where they are all becoming international firms.
"You have got amalgamations with this company and that company, you have US firms starting up in London."
However, he adds: "Baker & McKenzie has been there for a long time and we have used them down the years."
Head of legal
|FTSE 250 ranking||106|
|Legal function||Five lawyers|
|Head of legal||Peter Webber|
|Reporting to||David Jones, chief executive|
|Main location for lawyers||Enderby, Leicester|
|Main law firm||Simmons & Simmons, Eversheds, Edge Ellison, Baker & McKenzie|
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