Allied Domecq slashes in-house legal team

Allied Domecq slashed its legal team in half just months after it sold its pub retail arm for £2.7bn to Punch Taverns and relocated a division of its legal team from its London head office to Bristol.

The news of the cuts coincided with the announcement that Russell Kelley, former company secretary at LucasVarity, would take over as head of legal. Kelley worked at LucasVarity for 18 months, leaving just two months after the aerospace company was taken over by autoparts and space group TRW for £4bn.

Ashurst Morris Crisp remains a favourite with Allied, which has seen a host of developments in the last year. December saw the announcement that it is to acquire champagne houses GH Mumm and Perrier Jouet for almost £350m and, despite earlier rumours, it has now emerged that a bid for Seagram's wine and spirits business is not imminent.

Joint head of 4-5 Gray's Inn steps down to join Booth's new set

Michael Beloff QC stepped down as the joint head of 4-5 Gray's Inn Square. It was understood that he would be leaving to help launch the new human rights set Matrix with Cherie Booth QC.

Four other silks were due to sign up to the new set in the same week: David Bean QC from 4-5 Gray's Inn Square, Clare Montgomery QC from 3 Raymond Buildings and Nicholas Blake QC and Kenneth McDonald QC from Two Garden Court.

However, Beloff would not give a definitive answer. The same was true in May, when Beloff, who remained a tenant at 4-5 Gray's Inn, announced that it was his "present intention" to join Matrix in 12 months. The reason for delaying the move was to see through the merger of 4-5 Gray's Inn and Monckton. These talks have since collapsed. Beloff's intention is still to join Matrix at Easter, although an exact date has yet to be finalised.

Axa Insurance set to cut its Legal Panel

Following its purchase of Guardian Royal Exchange in 1999, Axa Insurance began a review of its legal panel as part of a move to rationalise and consolidate the newly-merged businesses.

The new panel has been reduced significantly, although Beachcroft Wansbroughs, Berrymans Lace Mawer, Kennedys, Cartwrights and Merricks continue to work for the insurance company. This is despite both Kennedys and Berrymans being briefly suspended from handling litigation claims for the company after failing an audit.

In May 2000 when this took place Axa demanded rebates from its panel of firms, with some practices paying back thousands of pounds for overcharging on litigation claims work.