Manches & Co and TSD booked by WH Smith

Manches & Co and Titmuss Sainer Dechert have won an estimated £750,000-a-year in property work from WH Smith after the book retailer held a beauty parade and ousted two of its former advisers: Bircham & Co and retail property niche firm Nathan Silman.

It is understood Denton Hall and Charles Russell were also present on Smiths' shortlist of six practices.

Nathan Silman began advising WH Smith in the late 1980s when Smiths acquired Our Price, while Bircham & Co had advised Smiths for many years. Manches has been acting for the company since 1984.

Louis Manches, Manches head of property, said it was the first time Smiths had reviewed its property lawyers.

It is believed the exercise formed part of Smiths' five-year restructuring exercise in which it is aiming to drastically cut costs.

The two firms have agreed to work on a fixed-fee basis, deal by deal – a procedure not fully in operation before.

“It is becoming increasingly common in retail property work,” said Manches. “These transactions are very similar so it is easier to estimate how much it is likely to cost.”

Smiths intends to sell and lease back many of its 1,250 properties, which include the Waterstones chain, in a bid to improve its balance sheets.

Herbert Smith continues to advise WH Smiths on its corporate transactions.