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 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.