BP demands transparency from external legal advisers

BP is demanding access to key billing and financial information held by its external lawyers as part of a review of the energy giant’s global technology requirements.

As first revealed on www.thelawyer.com (17 November), the FTSE 100 company has told firms that, in return for instructions, they must provide electronic intelligence relating to the matters they are working on.

BP hopes that by gaining access to its advisers’ time-recording systems, it will be able to determine how many lawyers are recording time against a matter and whether or not they are billing at the correct rate. The company will also be able to ensure that its external lawyers are getting the right level of supervision without too much partner involvement.

Robin Morris, BP’s associate general counsel, said: “We’re signalling a change in the way in which we want to use our law firms. We’ll set up a tracking unit, which will be charged with analysing [financial information] and making it available to our internal lawyers.”
Morris added that BP is also seeking access to firms’ knowledge management systems.

BP does not have a formal panel. Its main corporate advisers include CMS Cameron McKenna and Linklaters. As part of the technology review, BP has also approached firms that have not historically acted for the company.

In a related move, BP is planning to make two key appointments. It requires a functional strategy director and a financial information director. The former position is expected to be filled by a lawyer, while the latter will be taken up by a secondee from the company’s IT department.