Sainsbury’s set for sweeping review after real estate hire

J Sainsbury is gearing up for a major overhaul of its property panel following the appointment of its first in-house property lawyer.

The supermarket is hoping that hiring Katherine Kinch from Clifford Chance will help it slash its legal work which is usually outsourced to legal advisers. Consequently, Sainsbury’s is planning to review its existing roster of advisers in the autumn.

Sainsbury’s has a seven-strong panel comprising Addleshaw Goddard, Biggart Baillie, Denton Wilde Sapte (DWS), CMS Cameron McKenna, Lawrence Graham, Northern Ireland-based L’Estrange & Brett and SJ Berwin.

However, the retailer farms out the lion’s share of its work to Addleshaws, because of its longstanding relationship with legacy firm Addleshaw Booth & Co, and DWS, which also handles corporate work.

Kinch’s appointment is part of a major restructuring of Sainsbury’s 21-strong legal department, spearheaded by head of group legal services David Thurston.

Thurston told The Lawyer: “Cost-cutting is a factor [in the hire], but it’s also because the business has been operating in a fairly standard way for a long time and the world has moved on. It was recognised that the way we were set up and organised might have been great for the past, but is it right for the future?”

Under the new structure, which came into effect at the beginning of the month, Sainsbury’s legal department has been split into three teams comprising advisory, property and operations. Prior to the reorganisation, the legal department was split according to each lawyer’s expertise.

The restructuring also resulted in four lawyers leaving the department – two were made redundant and the other two retired.
The six advisory lawyers handle corporate work and matters relating to trading, marketing, competition, commercial and intellectual property.

Meanwhile, the six operations lawyers, led by Nick Grant, handle issues relating to how the stores operate, such as distribution matters.