High street retail giant John Lewis Partnership (JLP) has handed panel places to Burges Salmon, Dentons and Eversheds and named Slaughter and May as its main corporate adviser following a roster review.

The panel review was led by JLP general counsel Keith Hubber, who joined the company in January from BG Group after the exit of incumbent Margaret Casely-Hayford.

Hubber said the panel had been cut from “a number” to just four as JLP seeks to build “much closer and longer term relationships” with the winning firms.

Burges Salmon will run the account from its London office but will cover legal matters of a national importance alongside Eversheds and Dentons.

Slaughters, meanwhile, has had a longstanding relationship with JLP. In 2010, it advised the retailer on the reorganisation of its pension scheme.

The key question for firms pitching for a panel place was how they could add value to the business, Hubber told The Lawyer.  “It’s more a question of having a discipline around whether the work we’re doing adds value, what do we need to keep in-house and “what should we outsource?”

In total eight firms were called in for interview before the final four were decided upon, Hubber said.

They were expected to pitch to Hubber, his team and the in-house procurement team. They were asked to demonstrate how they could add value to the team, including billing methods and how they were willing to work collaboratively.

In terms of ‘value-added’ extras, being able to provide an advice line as well as secondees were considered bonuses.

 “We were very specific about the model we had in mind,” Hubber said. “We wanted a corporate adviser for key strategic issues and corporate governance matters with a panel of two or three for a full range of ‘business as usual’ legal services.”

The plan now is to devise an operating model that sets out clearly how JLP instructs those firms and where work is kept in-house. “We’re devising an operating model so we are very clear about how we use those firms and clear about what they can expect from us,” he said.

He continued, “The partnership isn’t immune from external pressures. We have to be cost conscious.”

The review follows a restructure of the in-house teams that now see it divided along company divisions rather than practice groups. As part of the restructure senior commercial lawyer Catherine Hasler was promoted to the newly created post of head of legal at Waitrose, while Georgina Foggin, also a senior commercial lawyer became head of legal at John Lewis.

For more on what’s going on in-house at JLP read ths week’s in-house interview with Keith Hubber.