Legal Business Blogs

‘An incredible opportunity’: DWF flexes New Law arm with BT managed services contract

DWF has landed its first major post-IPO client win after securing a five-year managed legal services mandate for BT’s insurance and real estate work.

Up to 40 lawyers from BT’s in-house legal team of nearly 400 staff could transfer from BT to DWF by the end of this year as part of the deal, which saw DWF chosen ahead of 25 other providers following a year-long process.

The managed legal services contract means DWF will provide BT’s insurance and real estate legal services largely through its Managed Services arm, which recently appointed former RBS head of artificial intelligence for the bank’s commercial and private banking business, Mark St John Qualter, as chief executive. He took over from Anup Kollanethu, who left the firm after less than a year in June.

BT group general counsel (GC) Sabine Chalmers (pictured), who joined the telecommunications company just over a year ago, told Legal Business that she and her leadership team had assessed how BT’s legal function was providing services shortly after she arrived.

Following those conversations, BT decided there were two brackets of lawyers it needed: those that necessarily required company and industry expertise, such as regulatory and privacy lawyers, and others which would benefit from having exposure to a wider variety of clients, such as insurance claims and property.

That was coupled with what Chalmers saw as a greater ranger of legal service offerings in the market, and transformation within the legal industry which had seen firms develop their own New Law-style businesses.

The process identified 26 potential partners, but DWF was ultimately considered the best fit after Chalmers and her team spent a day with the firm recently.

‘It was a very rigorous process, we looked at not just the offerings, but how they were providing them in terms of culture and the work environment,’ she told Legal Business. ‘Law firms are going through a period of tremendous transformation, and the trend of offering managed services is only going in one direction. The folks that do it best will take a greater share.’

Qualter would not specify how big DWF’s managed services business was other than to say it was a large, and growing, team.

‘We’ve got other clients who do managed services with us but clearly a name such as BT is very important to us,’ he told Legal Business. ‘We’re proud to be selected as one of their strategic legal partners.’

Chalmers said that many GCs would also not have the investment budget required to invest in technology as some law firms and other offerings could. DWF explicitly identified investing in operations and infrastructure as a core objective of its £95m March stock exchange listing.

‘Our ambitions are very clear,’ Qualter said. ‘We are fully committed to developing this [managed services], it’s an incredible opportunity.’