Amazon prepares ground for first formal Europe panel

Amazon is carrying out an overhaul of its external legal advisers in Europe that will see it launch a formal panel in the region for the first time.

The online retailer is looking to rationalise its list of outside law firms in a bid to cut spend and filter the roster down to a manageable number following the appointment of a new general counsel last year.

It currently instructs an informal and sizeable group of law firms in Europe, with key advisers including CMS Cameron McKenna, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), Olswang and Osborne Clarke, as well as US firm Edwards Wildman. It is thought the full list extends well beyond this.

The review process is being run out of its headquarters in Seattle, where general counsel David Zapolsky is based.

Zapolsky, a former partner at Dorsey & Whitney, took on the role from Michelle Wilson in September 2012, after a previous position as Amazon’s associate general counsel for litigation and regulatory matters. The UK in-house team is headed by UK legal director Robert Mackenzie.

The company’s main big-ticket relationships in the US are with Debevoise & Plimpton, Fenwick & West, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher and K&L Gates.

Last year Amazon struck an agreement with Waterstones, which was advised by Taylor Wessing, that led to the UK book retailer selling the US group’s Kindle e-reader in its stores and on its website. It is unclear whether Amazon instructed outside lawyers for the deal.

In another sign of the increased need for legal capability in Europe for Amazon and its peers, the European Commission last week referred France and Luxembourg to the EU’s Court of Justice for applying reduced rates of VAT to ebooks.

Amazon declined to comment.

For more on Amazon’s in-house legal team, see The Lawyer Transatlantic Elite 2012 .