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After four years, oil giant Total looks to slim down panel as it launches review

French oil major Total has launched a review of its current global legal panel and has informed lawyers involved in the process that it will cut the roster as it seeks to increase price competition between firms.

Total, which employs over 100,000 people globally and generated €190bn in 2013, created a 10-firm panel that included Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Dentons, Hogan Lovells, Jones Day, Shearman & Sterling and Gide Loyrette Nouel in 2011.

A lawyer for Total told Legal Business: ‘A panel review has been launched and the existing panel will change. The existing panel was implemented four years ago and it’s worked quite well but the members of the panel cannot cover all the matters so in many cases the panel is not used and we have to go to other law firms.’

Total has set-up a working committee to handle the review, spearheaded by Maarten Scholten, who replaced Peter Herbel general counsel at the start of 2014. A decision on the panel is expected at the end of March.

Disputes powerhouse Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan and Wilkie Farr & Gallagher are two firms known to carry out major mandates for Total but which are not on the panel. The firm also went outside the panel when it was investigated by US authorities over allegations that the company bribed Iranian officials in exchange for government contracts. For that matter the firm turned to then Patton Boggs partner Robert Luskin, who recently switched to Paul Hastings.

Hogan Lovells and Jones Day are widely expected to keep their spots. Hogan Lovells continues to advise the energy major on a $45bn project alongside BP that will expand the Shah Deniz Pipeline exporting gas from Azerbaijan to Europe while Jones Day’s relationship partner for Total, Francois Labrousse, was selected to handle the company’s €1.74bn purchase of adhesives maker Arkema earlier this month.

Dentons’ Danielle Beggs, an energy and infrastructure partner at Dentons in London, led a team advising the French energy giant on its first two shale investments in the UK last year but energy firms have dropped a number of new explorations since the fall in the price of oil.

One lawyer involved in the panel process told Legal Business: ‘It’s no secret that the oil industry is cutting costs and the procurement team has been very heavily involved in the whole process.’