Underwriting the new relationships

It seems like the same old story. Lloyd's syndicates Hiscox and Brockbank – two of the most influential in the market – are radically reviewing their use of outside lawyers. With a combined legal spend of $30bn (£21.3bn), the two syndicates are able to flex their muscles, get a better deal and insist on a higher quality of service – in other words, all the usual demands.

It may be a familiar tale outside Lime Street, but by and large, Lloyd's insurance and reinsurance lawyers have remained relatively unscathed since the Names shakeout of the early-1990s. Indeed, the travails of their brethren in the companies market, who have been subject to ever harsher panel cuts, have largely escaped them.

At first glance, the joint Hiscox/Brockbank initiative looks as if it falls into this category. But perhaps mindful of the resentment among lawyers of the way certain composite insurers have handled panel restructurings, the two syndicates are taking a conciliatory tone. Notably, the talk is of "partnering" and of "not cost-slashing".

This may have come about because of the more quirky, and certainly more personal, way of doing business at Lloyd's. The underwriter's traditional four-hour lunches may have gone for good, but just take a trip across the Lloyd's floor and you can see the importance of individual relationships. Or perhaps Hiscox and Brockbank – among the more forward-thinking syndicates in Lime Street – have cannily realised that insurers cannot treat service providers, whether law firms or anyone else, like a commoditised product.

Now, that really is a revolution.