Telecoms giant BT plans to extend its network of preferred suppliers to include a roster of regional firms as well as launching a framework of preferred barristers’ chambers for the first time next year.
BT last reviewed its network in March 2013 with 19 firms selected to advise it on matters in the UK and Republic of Ireland, and another 120 or so winning spots on its revised list of advisers worldwide.
The framework was expected to stay in place for three years but is likely to be delayed slightly because of the company’s planned £12.5bn takeover of rival Everything Everywhere.
Compliance and ethics chief Gareth Tipton is leading the review bringing together a team of lawyers from each of the in-house legal divisions.
Tipton told The Lawyer the review would span both traditional firms and alternative suppliers, such as Halebury and Obelisk, for the first time.
“It’s all up for discussion,” he said.
BT moved away from a traditionally fixed panel during the last review, preferring a network of suppliers.
“I’m contrary to the benefits of a panel and like the flexibility of having preferred suppliers,” Tipton said. “It’s been really successful and we want to continue with that.”
He said the company would look to utilise more regional firms for the first time as well as continuing to use boutiques.
“A lot of work doesn’t need to be London based,” Tipton said. “There’s a lot more competition and innovation coming from the regional firms.”
The emphasis will be on collaborative working, with traditional firms expected to work alongside alternative legal suppliers.
BT head of litigation Dave Hart, who joined the company in April from Barclays, is also planning to put together a framework of suppliers from the bar.
The company has relationships with sets including Pump Court and Devereux Chambers, but, said Hart, “there is no exclusivity there”.
Any framework, he said, “needs to beneficial to both parties and needs a degree of flexibility”.
He added: “There are certain chambers that are keen on being innovative. This is a process we are looking at and asking ourselves, ‘have we got the right chambers?’ and ‘have we got the right people?’”
Tipton said the review was in the early stages with the design principles currently under discussion.
Should the company get the green light for its takeover of EE in January it will also inherit a legal team of more than 40.