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Cutting the roster: After major acquisitions, Cofely set to create first legal panel

Cofely, a subsidiary of French energy giant GDF Suez, is to establish its first legal panel in a bid to reduce legal fees and the number of firms it deals with.

In what will be a mass reorganisation of the company’s legal services expenditure, which currently involves business managers in selecting law firms, general counsel Simone Tudor is hoping to reduce the company’s go-to law firms down to just three after a review found that Cofely had instructed 25 law firms so far this year.

The panel process will begin in the New Year, with a final decision on the panel line-up expected to be taken by the end of March 2015. DLA Piper, DAC Beachcroft and Stephenson Harwood have all frequently been instructed by Cofely and appear set to pitch for panel spots, while Benelux law firm Stibbe has also been used in the last year.

It was Stephenson Harwood that advised Cofely on two major investments in the last 12 months – the purchase of Lend Lease’s UK facilities management business in July and the £190m acquisition of Balfour Beatty Workplace last year, which have transformed Cofely into a £1bn business with upwards of 15,000 staff. It was this expansion that led to such a sprawling use of different law firms and motivated Cofely’s decision to remove business managers from the legal process and place all instructions through Tudor and her team. Cofely’s relationship with Stephenson Harwood also extends to a trainee swap, with the energy company bolstering its litigation training for in-house lawyers through the arrangement.

Tudor said: ‘I will be asking my colleagues at GDF Suez how their panel operates but they’re looking at big energy deals and we’re looking more at services agreements, litigation and property work.’

Tudor practised at Wragge & Co, Speechly Bircham and Thomas Eggar before becoming head of legal at Cofely. Earlier this year she was named in Legal Business’s GC Power List as a rising star.