Under the system, English Partnerships can access information directly from its firms, including billing details and progress of work.
The organisation issues between 50 and 100 instructions per week to a new panel set up after a review last year (The Lawyer, 5 March 2001). It comprises Denton Wilde Sapte, Eversheds, Pinsent Curtis Biddle and Warrington firm Forshaws.
Head of legal services Judith Roberts estimates that cost savings of around 15 per cent have been achieved in the first six months.
She said: “Now all instructions are issued via the e-business system, and this means we can monitor more effectively where the work is being sent, how efficiently it is being carried out and whether we're achieving best value from consultants. This has certainly led to cost savings.”
Roberts said that in the past her department had felt “slightly powerless”. “There was a lack of transparency and clarity in billing,” she said. “Although I had regular meetings with consultants, one never felt entirely that one was getting the full picture.”
Roberts said that the new system is also enabling firms to assess how much work is coming in and how to allocate resources. Roberts said: “No fee-earner is going to admit that they have too much work.”
English Partnerships has also finalised its niche panel to complement the main panel set up last spring. Bircham Dyson Bell has been appointed to deal with parliamentary matters. It is an entirely new firm to English Partnerships and may be called on in relation to an extensive review of the organisation's role, announced by Lord Falconer last October.
Berwin Leighton Paisner was appointed to continue its work at Greenwich and Masons was appointed to handle major construction litigation and health and safety. Addleshaw Booth & Co lost out on an appointment to handle coalfields work, which will be serviced instead by the main panel.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer tops the list of UK law firms in the worldwide M&A rankings for 2001.