BLP downgrades Managed Legal Services initiative as lateral partner exits pile up

Berwin Leighton Paisner is restructuring its Managed Legal Services (MLS) division after it emerged that Patrick Somers, who led the initiative, has left the firm along with fellow high-profile lateral Andrew Bamber, an acquisition finance specialist.

Patrick Somers, who set up MLS in 2010 as a client insourcing project, was recruited by BLP in 2005 from Hammonds, now Squire Sanders. He had previously been general counsel at energy company Lattice Group, later part of National Grid. Andrew Bamber was recruited by BLP in June 2009 (26 June 2009) to build its acquisition finance team. He had left Allen & Overy after the magic circle firm made drastic cuts in March 2009 (9 March 2009) to its leveraged finance team in the wake of the banking crisis.

BLP’s MLS division launched three years ago with the high-profile acquisition of the entire legal work of Thames Water, including its 14 lawyers in Reading, but they were not joined by general counsel Joel Hanson, who stayed within the company’s secretariat (25 March 2010).

The contract allowed BLP to take over all work carried out by the utility company’s panel, which included Allen & Overy, Ashurst, Dentons, DLA Piper, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Linklaters. At the time BLP estimated the value of the work to be approximately £5m (28 March 2013).

However, since then MLS has not had the same level of success. It pitched for Balfour Beatty’s work but in January it emerged that Pinsent Masons had acquired the construction company’s mandate. Earlier this year a proposed deal with Yorkshire Water is understood to have fallen through, while deals with Buckinghamshire County Council and Colt Technology Services also stalled.

Corporate partner Keith Stella has now taken over the Thames Water relationship. The 14-lawyer team in Reading is unaffected, but there have been two redundancies in the London team managing service delivery.

Corporate head John Bennett told The Lawyer: “What we’re not doing now is big game hunting of FTSE 100 GCs or Fortune 500 companies. What we’re doing is using what we’ve learned to talk to existing clients about their needs.”