Get used to working together, bank advisers told

Banks get serious about collaboration among panel law firms

The message is clear: if you want to bag yourself a panel place with Barclays or RBS you’d better get used to working in partnership with your peer firms.

RBS told its army of advisers at a town hall meeting last month that they must find new ways of working to keep costs down ahead of a comprehensive roster review planned for next year. 

Barclays’ head of financial crime and former litigation and investigations director Jonathan Peddie has long been a fan of collaborative working and now the bank has asked its firms to take it to a new level.

Single bills, single teams and shared letters of engagement are all on the horizon for advisers to the banking giant. In the past the in-house team has taken the lead in carving work up between firms, and now it has told firms that they must take the reins in driving forward the initiative. 

Being a relationship partner within your own firm is politically tough enough,” remarked one commentator on TheLawyer.com last week. “Lord knows how this is supposed to work across completely different firms.”

”Multiple firms: one budget = happy harmonious lawyers – oh no, wait, that’s not true at all…” commented another.

Despite the complaints, general counsel clients are getting tough on the firms they have mandated. In-house departments are in growth mode, and along with that comes a growing reluctance to send out work that can be better handled in-house – at a cheaper rate. 

The banks in particular are no longer content to automatically send work to the magic circle, they are on the hunt for a compromise and have told firms they need to buddy up with their smaller counterparts ahead of the new panel process.

Collaboration may not be a new concept, Hogan Lovells launched its Mexican Wave initiative 15 years ago, but it is certainly taken a while to catch on.

In-house lawyers using blended teams will catapult the concept to a new level. Unlike firms taking ownership of work and sub-contracting to others, the new-style collaboration will see firms forced to work together on an equal footing, advising clients as a harmonious whole.