Barclays to probe firms’ staffing on transactions

Barclays is to put its external advisers under the microscope as it moves to implement the most rigorous management of legal spend yet seen by any UK institution.

The bank is partnering with US supplier DataCert to monitor the exact composition of law firm bills. It will record comparative data on how law firms staff their deals through capturing information on hours recorded by partners, associates, trainees and paralegals – and whether they marry with panel requirements.

The dedicated technology will allow Barclays to make direct comparisons between firms’ staffing habits for the first time. Barclays currently uses more than 30 UK law firms and the project will have immediate implications for its current panel revamp.

Barclays general counsel Mark Harding said: “This is a strategic investment by the legal function and will provide better control over the processes for originating legal spend, ensuring our law firm panel guidelines are complied with.”

Andrew Dey, head of operations at Barclays legal and compliance function, said: “We believe it will make our in-house lawyers think more commercially. Are we putting the right resources on matters? What’s the selection process? We would hope over time that it has a positive behavioural change.”

Barclays’ move has come after consultation with industry standards group Litig and goes way beyond the current system of electronic invoicing used by most corporates and financial institutions.

Chief operating officer of Barclays’ legal group Richard Daniel said: “We need to balance the fact that we’re looking for good-value legal advice with the qualitative elements, relationship elements, continuity and comparative understanding of Barclays.”

Asked whether the comparative information will be available to its panel, Daniel said: “The principle is one that we’ve considered, but we’re not looking to play firms off against each other.”