Ladbrokes cuts legal panel as move away from hourly billing edges closer

Ladbrokes has slashed its legal panel from around 50 firms to 22 after carrying out a major review that has also seen the FTSE 250 company appoint a non-lawyer to oversee panel relationships and call for firms to end hourly billing by January 2015.

Slaughter and May
Slaughter and May

The gambling group has appointed Clyde & Co, Slaughter and May, SJ Berwin and Southampton-based Trethowans as its primary advisers alongside an additional eight core panel firms: Dickinson Dees, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Gateley, Harold Benjamin, Jonathan Rose, OnSide Law, Reed Smith and Scotland’s Burness.

It has also selected a further 10 firms to a specialist panel for areas such as betting and gambling, for which firms including Harris Hagan, DLA Piper and Olswang have been named.

Although details of unsuccessful bidders are unclear, the company confirmed that certain partner moves such as litigator Michael Madden from Ashurst to Winston & Strawn in 2011 and Berwin Leighton Paisner gaming head Hilary Stewart Jones to DLA Piper the same year have resulted in some legal work following the partners to their new firms.

The review was carried out by general counsel and former SJ Berwin partner Jonathan Adelman, who joined the company in 2008 from Hilton Hotels, where he was vice-president and senior counsel. He moved in-house from SJ Berwin in 2003 to Hilton Group, which was taken over by Hilton Hotels in 2006.

Adelman commented: “We split out our work into lots and sub-lots to ensure that firms could pitch for work where they could really add value and to enable them to articulate their granular rather than generic knowledge. Whilst firms have been appointed to the panel indicatively by lot or sub-lot we’re free to pick and choose who to send any particular item of work to, keeping all firms on their toes throughout the four-year term and maintaining price tension between firms during the life of the panel.”

A 2010 review of legal advisers saw Ladbrokes’ roster cut from more than 100 firms to around 50, including around 30 in the UK and Ireland. As part of that review Adelman introduced e-billing to improve efficiency. Almost all matters are now billed monthly using the company’s TyMetrix T360 technology.

Adelman also took advice from Olswang business development head Michelle Elstein on how to carry out the review.

The latest panel revamp gifts member firms a four-year tenure on the roster, with the company also setting a deadline of 1 January 2015 for panellists to have shifted away from hourly billing. The four-year term is part of the company’s Legal Strategic Plan to increase efficiency.

Adelman said: “We felt that a shorter panel term would have just led to a horse trade on hourly rates and we wanted a longer-term, more holistic approach, delivering long-term value and savings, and so we opted for a four-year panel.

“We want to move entirely away from hourly billing by 1 January 2015, so halfway through the panel. A lot of firms on the panel do that already, and we’re moving that way with the other firms.”

The company has also appointed non-lawyer Jade Mcilveen, a member of Adelman’s in-house team, as law firm relationship manager responsible for overseeing ties to outside firms. The company will hold regular account meetings with firms.

Meanwhile, Ladbrokes is planning to carry out a review of its panel of international advisers this year, covering regions including Continental Europe and Asia Pacific.