Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has beaten City competition to advise the National Lottery Commission after it dumped former Treasury solicitor advisers.
The magic circle firm is understood to have seen off Herbert Smith and Lovells.
The Freshfields team, led by partners Jo Rickard and Richard Chalk, is bringing in one of the best silks at the bar, Gordon Pollock QC, head of chambers at magic circle set Essex Court.
In an unprecedented move, the commission jettisoned the Treasury solicitors after losing a High Court case over its treatment of Camelot’s bid to retain control of the lottery. The court ruled that it had treated the bid unfairly in deciding to negotiate exclusively with Sir Richard Branson’s People’s Lottery for the seven-year licence.
The commission has now turned its back on the government advisers and held a beauty parade between three private practice firms. It has decided to use Freshfields for all its procedural advice to make sure the process is now fair to both bidders.
Gordon Pollock replaces Jonathan Crow of 4 Stone Buildings, the senior junior who was the commission’s previous counsel. Pollock will be called on in the event of any more litigation. Chalk says: “In light of the suggestion made by Camelot that there may be a further challenge to the commission’s decision, we decided as a contingency that we needed a heavy-hitter like Gordon Pollock.”
Camelot is using a Baker & McKenzie team led by David Fraser alongside David Pannick QC from Blackstone Chambers.
A commission spokesman says: “We were obviously not in a position where we wanted a gap in our legal advice, so we had to do things fairly quickly. Nevertheless, we managed to build a competitive element into our decision.”
He would not comment on the decision-making procedure, but a source close to the process says the firms were approached a few days after the ruling and asked to make their cases known.
City firm Lawrence Graham already advises the commission on commercial issues and is responsible for assessing the two bids.
It is believed to be the first time a public body has rejected government lawyers in favour of private practice for this type of work. A source close to the Lottery says: “Ordinarily the government and the Treasury solicitors are very proud of their role in dealing with that kind of thing. Judicial review is quite rare stuff and it’s the sort of thing the Government would usually like to have control of.”
The commission spokesman says: “We’re not bound to use [the Treasury solicitors] – you use the advice that you think fits the occasion.”
In the battle to secure the Lottery franchise Harbottle & Lewis is acting for The People’s Lottery, and Nabarro Nathanson and CMS Cameron McKenna are advising the Post Office and Camelot respectively in their joint opposing bid.
Lovells refused to confirm or deny any involvement in the tendering process.