Legal Business Blogs

‘An opportunity to look at things differently’: AXA UK to review international firms after efficiency drive

The UK legal arm of French insurer AXA is set to look at its relationships with Magic Circle and international firms and how they can work more effectively for the company. It follows a review of the UK specific ‘business-as-usual’ panel which has been cut from seven to two and now comprises Pinsent Masons and DAC Beachcroft.

Headed by longstanding group general counsel (GC) Edward Davis (pictured), the objective to explore new efficiencies with the premium fee firms it currently works with – including Clifford Chance, Linklaters, Hogan Lovells, and Norton Rose Fulbright – was sparked after the 35-lawyer AXA UK legal team carried out a substantive review during 2014.

Led by Davis and department heads, chief counsel AXA healthcare Sam Patel, chief counsel AXA insurance Mark Gardner, and general counsel wealth Emily Coupland, the team achieved a 10% reduction in external legal spend and, internally, a 20% reduction in the number of full time equivalent staff. An ongoing feat, AXA UK’s legal function has reduced its external legal spend by 35% annually since 2011 with total legal spend currently less than £10m and around 70% of that spent in-house.

Davis explains: ‘There’s been a strong focus since 2010 on efficiency. We responded to that and have been trying to play our part. There’s clear opportunity at the moment to look at things differently and try to find different and effective ways of delivering service.’

Having finalised its roster of firms last September which support the company on ‘business-as-usual’ work, Davis says the process involved assessing a host of metrics to determine suitability: ‘We weren’t just looking at fee structure like fixed fees and capped, but firms demonstrating their ability and experience to manage and identify certain areas of work and bundle it up and decide whether us, or the firms, should do the work. We’re doing that very successfully in litigation and employment. We’re also looking at what firms are investing in technology to deliver smart contract solutions – so there’s an ability to deliver contracts more efficiently through use of intelligent systems.’

Davis now has a clear mandate in 2015 to look at AXA UK’s relations with those premium fee firms it still provides work to, with the in-house team exploring what those firms are doing to be innovative.

For more on in-house innovation, see: ‘Our headline achievement’: Telefonica UK reduces external legal spend by 66% over two years