Top insurance firms escape giant's axe

Three top insurance law firms are breathing a sigh of relief after confirmation from Royal & Sun Alliance (RSA) that they have survived the company's first round of panel cuts.

Berrymans Lace Mawer, Davies Arnold Cooper and Vizards Staples Bannister have all been told they will continue to advise on commercial litigation work.

But the futures of Herbert Smith, Dibb Lupton Alsop and Beachcroft Wansbroughs hang in the balance as the insurer slashes its advisers and boosts its in-house capability.

Berrymans senior partner Paul Taylor says: “Our recent meetings with RSA have been amicable discussions between two long-standing business partners about the detail of the continuation of that relationship.

“The insurance litigation market is passing through a period of profound change and this is bound to influence practices of our type.”

Last week, Berrymans survived a panel slash by rival insurer Cornhill Insurance, which cut its panel of external advisers from over 70 to just 15 (The Lawyer, 6 March).

RSA has been developing its in-house capability over the last two years in an effort to cut costs. The company can, like other insurers, tempt firms into dropping hourly rates by offering them a larger amount of work.

Martin Staples, senior partner at Vizards Staples Bannister, says: “I have been told I am still on the panel, but I know they are bringing a lot of work in-house.”

An insider at Davies Arnold Cooper says his firm has been told its position as adviser is safe, but adds that the panel review is ongoing.