The heavy industry sector is under siege. It is dealing with the knock-on effects of utility restructuring, privatisation and the nation’s obsession with new technology. Investors are being drawn away from old, established industries and engineering companies and manufacturers are being pressed to do everything at lower prices.
When it comes to choosing firms, long-term loyalty, strong reputations and close proximity are the order of the day. Companies are quick to turn to the services of firms in Birmingham and Leeds which have the equivalent expertise to London but at a lower price.
Many of the big industry players rely on a close relationship with one firm and call in others on an ad hoc basis when necessary. Smaller niche firms are brought in to advise on what is regarded as less significant work.
Bigger engineering companies may have formal panels, but as the companies get smaller so do the number of advisers. Local firms are seen as having a better understanding of the day-to-day business, and in-house departments are loyal to individual lawyers rather than firms.
Across the sector there is a general shift away from formal selection procedures. Earlier this year engineering giant Invensys decided to scrap its panel in favour of a database of favoured individuals, and the rest of the sector is following suit.
In a rapidly changing sector, companies are demanding the most responsive lawyers at the cheapest possible price.