FFW beats off magic circle for telecoms job

A consortium of the world's leading telecoms companies has snubbed Clifford Chance and Allen & Overy and chosen Field Fisher Waterhouse to represent it in one of the industry's biggest ever deals.

The firm was chosen after leading telecoms law firms were invited to tender for the work, which involves setting up contracts with British Telecom (BT) for access to some of its cables.

The group of 17 companies includes industry giants such as MCI WorldCom, Cable & Wireless, Energis, NTL and First Telecom.

BT has agreed to end its monopoly on the lines between networks and homes – known as the local loop – but the companies now have to thrash out the contractual relationship.

Field Fisher fought off tenders from Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Simmons & Simmons, Baker & McKenzie, Taylor Joynson Garrett and Olswang to win the work, which will be done by two partners and their teams. The work must be completed by next summer.

Robert Bratby, who is chairing the industry group and is legal and regulatory manager at Colt Telecommunications, says Field Fisher won on the basis of cost and because its property and telecoms practices were well integrated.

He says: “One of the things that swung it was that the issues cut across telecoms and property and Field Fisher partner Moira Gilmour is a specialist in telecoms property issues.

“Everybody that tendered could have done the work but we felt that Field Fisher had more depth on the property side and could provide an integrated practice. And it was competitive on a price basis.”

Head of telecoms at Field Fisher Tony Ballard will work alongside infrastructure partner Gilmour on the work.

Ballard says: “Its great that we have seen the other leading telecoms firms in a project as important as this. If we can get competition in this market the pace of change is going to accelerate beyond most people's wildest dreams. This is one of the most significant developments ever in this market.”

He adds that the work will allow Field Fisher to build strong links with the members of the industry group which he hopes could lead to more telecoms work in the future.

Both Gilmour and Ballard joined Field Fisher two years ago when the firm merged with 12-partner telecoms firm Allison & Humphreys. Gilmour says it is aiming to become a leading telecoms firm.

Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance were both unavailable for comment.