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Adviser reviews: Irwin Mitchell replaced by Shakespeares on National Grid’s UK panel after review

Top 30 LB100 firm Irwin Mitchell has lost its place on energy giant National Grid’s legal panel, following a review by UK general counsel and company secretary Karen Clayton.

The 700-lawyer firm was appointed for debt recovery services on the FTSE 100 energy giant’s panel in 2011, at a time when it cut its roster of firms by 25% to 16. However, as first reported by RollonFriday yesterday (17 March), Irwin Mitchell was not re-appointed in a recent review, and Legal Business was today informed by National Grid that the firm has been replaced by Shakespeares.

A statement from National Grid said: ‘following a thorough review and re-tender of its debt and damage legal service provision, [National Grid] has awarded the contract to Shakespeares.

‘Shakespeares already support National Grid on their panel of external providers delivering property work. The award is for one year starting on 1 April and the handover from previous incumbents Irwin Mitchell is ongoing.’

The wider UK panel includes Allen & Overy, Linklaters, DLA Piper, Eversheds, CMS Cameron McKenna, Berwin Leighton Paisner, Field Fisher Waterhouse and Squire Sanders. Clayton said, ‘I would like to thank Irwin Mitchell for all their support over the years. We will be conducting an open market review of all our externally placed legal services in the summer for go live in April next year, and this award will tie in with this bigger review piece.’

Group GC Alison Kay (pictured) this year announced a wholesale review of National Grid’s in-house and external legal services, due to be completed in around March 2015.

As part of that review, Clayton has in recent months been pulling together preliminary information on the day-to-day function of the 31-strong in-house team, which undertakes core regulatory and contractual work but also commoditised property, procurement and IT contractual work.

The National Grid business heads will be asked where the legal team is providing most value or where changes need to be made.

Once that is completed, Kay and Clayton will undertake an extensive review of National Grid’s external legal function alongside its procurement team potentially with the help of an external consultant.

A statement from Irwin Mitchell said: ‘Irwin Mitchell is a strong, growing business which has recruited more than 30 experts into partner-level positions in the past 15 months, completed five acquisitions and exceeded £200m in income for the first time in 2012/13. We are of course disappointed with National Grid’s decision but our business legal services team is continuing to expand and recently it has won work from a number of significant new clients. Irwin Mitchell has also been re-appointed by a number of existing clients following formal tender processes which again shows the strength of our commercial division and our ability to provide innovative legal solutions.’

Irwin Mitchell turned out positive results in the last financial year with a 9% rise in revenue to £200.2m, constituting a 38% increase since 2008, alongside a 9% increase in profit per equity partner to £619,000. However, it lost a significant referral arrangement with LV Insurance in November, while a 30-strong team including former commercial litigation head John Lord defected to TLT before Christmas.