While Virgin is not officially putting panel places out to tender until next year, the review could amount to “additions or dropoffs” of member firms.
Virgin set up its 11-firm panel last May. Before then, it had a core panel of four law firms for the central group and the business units used their own preferred firms. Virgin Group general counsel Helena Samaha is reviewing the panel to find out if the business units are happy with their allocated firms.
“If business units feel they’re unable to get the kind of advice they need, there could be additions or dropoffs happening on the panel,” Samaha said.
She added that, if additional expertise were needed, new
firms would be required to go through the same rigorous tendering process that the 11 panel firms underwent last year.
The 11 firms on the Virgin panel are Allen & Overy, Ashurst Morris Crisp, Bond Pearce, Denton Wilde Sapte, DLA, Eversheds, Finers Stephens Innocent, Hammonds, Herbert Smith, Harbottle & Lewis and Macfarlanes. They were chosen from a list of 60 drawn up following recommendations from Virgin staff.
Virgin will conduct a full panel review next year and plans to do so every two years after that. Samaha will conduct an interim review every six months. The Lawyer understands that some Virgin directors wanted the legal panel reviewed every three months.
Virgin is one of the few large retail groups that looks at its legal panel this regularly. Retail giant Kingfisher reviewed its panel in 2000 after not looking at it for over two years. Kingfisher takes nine months to review its panel, so it changes once every three years, said company secretary Helen Jones. The company does not undertake detailed interim reviews like Virgin.
“We have working reviews of the performance of individual law firms if something comes up,” said Jones.