LDA to rejig legal team and cut panel

The London Development Agency (LDA) is preparing to overhaul its legal team and slash its panel from 18 firms to five as part of an efficiency drive.

LDA legal chief Debbie Adams is looking to recruit nine lawyers and cut £3m from the agency’s legal spend in the run-up to large-scale projects such as the 2012 Olympics, the Thames Gateway development and Crossrail, as first revealed on www.thelawyer.com (27 February).

Adams is now interviewing for candidates for a new internal team to handle projects, planning and property work. That group will number five lawyers, with public law and commercial teams jointly comprising around four lawyers.

Adams told The Lawyer: “Currently a large part of that work is outsourced to our panel. As soon as the team’s in place here we’ll be reviewing the panel, cutting it down from 18 firms to five. It will be much more manageable.”

Firms such as Bircham Dyson Bell, DLA Piper, Eversheds and Stephenson Harwood are on the LDA’s panel at the moment and will be fighting for places on the revamped roster.

Adams intends to make more changes, such as standardising LDA contracts and putting them into plainer English to make them more user-friendly.

Once the standardised templates are in place Adams said she intends to outsource the bulk of the standardised contract work, leaving the in-house lawyers free to work on more bespoke and complicated contracts.

This will be a key factor in deciding which law firms will make the new panel.

The newly recruited LDA lawyers can also look forward to an expanded training programme.

“We’re going to be putting on a considerable amount of training,” said Adams. “Lawyers are always an overhead, so we have to be quick and efficient.

“I want to make sure the legacy for London is right, creating more jobs, more facilities and regenerating areas of the city.”

Before starting work at the LDA last year Adams had stints in-house at infrastructure companies such as Eurotunnel and National Air Traffic Services. She has a wealth of experience when it comes to restructuring legal departments.

“I’ve done this before,” she said. “In one place I worked contracts took 18 months, but by the time I left we got that down to 10 days. The cost savings are phenomenal.”