Microsoft puts firms under pressure in major review

Microsoft is in the middle of a global review of its law firms as it attempts to control spiralling legal costs caused mainly by its endless antitrust and patent litigation.

It is understood that the world’s largest software house has frozen hourly rates until the selection process is completed. Those firms chosen so far have had to conform to a whole new set of terms and conditions, which include demonstrating a commitment to diversity.

US firms already understood to be signed up include Arnold & Porter, Covington & Burling, Sidley Austin Brown & Wood and Sullivan & Cromwell.

However, with Microsoft’s antitrust battles against the European Commission showing no sign of settling any time soon, the focus has switched to Europe.

Covington, Linklaters, Sullivan and Belgian firm Van Bael & Bellis have all had a helping hand in that case and should not have any difficulty demonstrating their commitment to Bill Gates’s company.

Other UK firms that will need to negotiate to win a place on the streamlined list of advisers include Denton Wilde Sapte, Kemp Little, Mishcon de Reya and Richards Butler.

Microsoft’s European general counsel Horacio Gutierrez declined to comment on the review “because it makes law firms nervous”.