BA opts for Addleshaws in clear signal to panel firms

Legal director Walsh aims for increased competition between external advisers

British Airways (BA) has appointed Addleshaw Booth & Co as a corporate and commercial adviser in a move aimed at increasing competition between its existing panel firms.
The decision to add an extra firm was prompted in part by the problems facing the travel industry before 11 September, but became even more pressing after the terrorist attacks on the US.
BA legal director Stephen Walsh said: “BA is always trying to make itself smarter and more profitable. Finding law firms that can provide services to the standard we need, but cheaper than other firms, is good business sense. The pressure to reduce costs is stronger following 11 September.
“It's important that we have competition and that we always have enough capacity.”
Addleshaws beat four other regional firms in a rigorous competition to win the instruction. Walsh said that Addleshaws' performance was outstanding. “We've chosen Addleshaws because we believe they can offer us the high-quality advice we need at extremely competitive levels of cost.”
Addleshaws senior partner Paul Lee and technology partner Margaret Harvey will manage the new relationship and will use the partnership approach developed by the firm for its major clients. “We seek to become as near as possible part of the client's own in-house department,” said Lee.
Addleshaws already acts for American Airlines, with which BA is hoping to secure an alliance, and for Airtours, Servisair Group Companies and Sabre.
The firm has also been appointed to advise BA on matters including employment, intellectual property (IP), IT, commercial contracts and corporate finance.
Four of BA's 16-strong UK legal team have reduced their working days as part of a package at BA to help cope with the travel crisis. But its policy is still to outsource as little of its legal work as possible in order to save on costs. Walsh said: “We're not outsourcing anything that [the lawyers who have gone part-time] were already working on; but if they're working fewer days there's less capacity, so some work will go out which would otherwise have stayed in-house.”
Walsh says he is happy with his other panel firms. He currently uses Wragge & Co, Slaughter and May and, to a lesser extent, Andersen Legal for a range of matters. Osborne Clarke and Denton Wilde Sapte are on the panel for employment, Bristows for IP and IT and Beaumont and Son for aviation.
Walsh said: “There's no work that I'm going to move from a firm and give to Addleshaws, but by being there they'll provide more competition to the other firms.”