O2 legal chief set to sack 25 firms

Mobile phone operator O2 has instituted a radical new initiative in its legal department, which will include slashing its current panel of 38 law firms by two-thirds.

O2 head of legal Giuseppe Sanna, who joined from General Electric in January 2002, has restructured the 45-strong legal department, implementing 10 practice groups. These comprise: outside counsel management; litigation and mediation; compliance and ethics; regulatory and competition law; intellectual property; digitisation and productivity; employment and data protection; procurement; commercial; and pro bono.

Having concluded the internal reorganisation, Sanna has embarked on the panel review. “We’re looking at firms which operate on an international basis to be able to streamline processes, achieve consistency of advice and consistency of billing, and also possibly have a single point of contact,” he said.

While this is good news for O2’s key corporate adviser Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, it will concern Wragge & Co and O2’s other national firms. Allen & Overy and Eversheds also advise the company.

Sanna has been reviewing the use of external lawyers with a view to setting down strict criteria on engagement, billing and conflicts. “The goal is to generate efficiencies through shared knowledge,” said Sanna.

The litigation and mediation group, for example, is studying previous O2 disputes to assess whether they were resolved effectively and economically. The group will study when outside counsel were engaged and whether the case could have been settled earlier than it was.

The digitisation and productivity group’s first initiative is to implement a centralised set of electronic contracts. Other plans include a comprehensive precedent system and schemes to communicate more effectively with outside law firms using intranets or other electronic means.

The team has just joined the pro bono group of the Law Society and Sanna is hoping that the legal department can coordinate its efforts in this area with its law firms.