BP panel review to be wrapped up within a fortnight

BP’s ongoing panel review process is drawing to a close, with firms expecting to be told if they have scooped a UK panel place before the end of June.

However the parallel US panel review could drag out beyond the end of the month, although some firms pitching for spots on both the UK and US panels are expecting to hear the outcome before July.

Historically the company has been tight-lipped over the size of its US panel. In May general counsel Rupert Bondy said BP would “realign rates” for those firms this year. A spokesperson this week said the US panel review process was more complex than the UK one and would be completed later this year.

However a source said: “Both processes are happening at the same time and some firms are hoping to be on both panels by the end of the month.”

US firms already working with the company in the US could see themselves awarded UK panel spots, according to sources. One said it would be surprising if the company did not accept current US panel firms on its UK roster.

Firms like Andrews Kurth, Arnold & Porter and Kirkland & Ellis have all represented BP in US litigation over the past year and at least one firm with an office in London is said to have applied for the dual panel spots.

The US panel process is understood to be different to the UK and will not result in a straightforward list of names next to practice group affiliations. The unpredictable nature of US litigation is at the heart of the issue, according to sources.

One said: “You need to have access to more locally based US firms because you could end up being sued in New Orleans or Delaware and it doesn’t go down well with the local judge if you wheel in a lawyer from New York.”

Another said: “The review is different because of the nature of the work. If you do litigation in the UK you can do it anywhere but in the US you’ve got major centres of litigation in different states.”

BP has overhauled its UK review this year, adding a reverse auction element and putting an emphasis on cost efficiency. But sources said the company had reined back on the intensive nature of its first review in 2011 (26 May 2011).

BP’s 2011 UK panel consisted of CMS Cameron McKenna, Field Fisher Waterhouse (now Fieldfisher), Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, legacy Herbert Smith, Linklaters, legacy Norton Rose, Pinsent Masons and Olswang.

A source said: “Three years ago it was a very, very intensive process with a huge amount of time and documentation. It was a procurement driven exercise with a huge amount of data gathered and it soaked up a lot of time for both BP and the firms.

“Now they’ve already got a lot of data in place so they’ve made it clear that is will be a much less intensive process than the last time.”

At the last panel review in 2011 (26 May 2011), sources described cut-throat bidding by firms during the review. FIrms including Allen & OveryBaker & McKenzieClifford Chance and Eversheds were among those which submitted bids but were ultimately unsuccessful.