As general counsel (GCs) push their advisers to think more innovatively about costs savings, Slaughter and May has begun offering the services of Carillion’s new low-cost legal arm to its own clients, including a recent transaction for key client Vodafone.
The Magic Circle firm, which is one of Carillion’s lead corporate panel advisers, offered Vodafone the option to use Newcastle-based Carillion Advice Services (CAS) on an undisclosed deal, which included a customer contract exercise.
Slaughters has previously used CAS to strip out the more commoditised elements of its instructions from the construction giant. However, this marks one of the first times it has used CAS for other major clients. William Underhill (pictured), who is the Carillion relationship partner, said: ‘It was not a small decision for us to promote CAS, our relationship with Vodafone is very important and you expose that relationship by introducing another provider who you say you think can do the job. But we had seen enough of their operation to have confidence.
‘It was exactly in CAS’s sweet spot in that there was legal content such that the task was not purely administrative but it could be done effectively without input from our lawyers.’ Unlike many legal process outsourcing ventures, CAS interacted directly with Vodafone’s clients.
The move has been well received by Vodafone, where group GC Rosemary Martin has been pushing her panel firms, of which Slaughters is one, to come up with creative solutions to the problem of reducing costs.
Slaughters’ Roland Turnill, who holds the Vodafone relationship and recently led on the telecoms giant’s $130bn Verizon disposal, said: ‘It is of real value to us and our clients to have access to the CAS service in the right circumstances and for the right sort of work.’
The example of Slaughters as one of the City’s most traditional and prestigious firms teaming up with CAS will be seen as evidence of a more imaginative approach from top-tier advisers to offering value.
Turnill said: ‘I am a real enthusiast.’ Underhill added: ‘The in-house legal function are under huge cost pressures: they don’t have enough people and they need to adopt a smart solution like CAS to take on some of the burden. Why would we stand in the way of progress?’
A large part of the attraction of the now 70-strong CAS team is that it is heavily process driven, audited and staffed by highly qualified, legally trained staff, with CAS benefiting from the fact that it can be difficult for them to find other legal jobs in the Newcastle area.
Richard Tapp, Carillion’s company secretary and director of legal services, who first trialled the CAS arrangement last year with panel employment advisers Clarkslegal, said: ‘We’re very conscious of the need to make sure we do this properly and have structured it to ensure that the quality is high, accredited and third-party audited.
‘You instruct a law firm for their intellect and experience, not for the day-to-day work that needs to be done properly but not with the same skill as their core expertise.’