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Unilever carries out ‘informal review’ as current panel expires

Consumer goods giant Unilever is currently carrying out an ‘informal review’ of its current panel firms, after the roster expired in June 2016.

According to a partner at one of Unilever’s panel firms: ‘Instead of a full-blown formal process, it is a more informal thing.’

The partner continued: ‘Some clients are quite open and talk to people about the process and others come to their own decisions depending on how the process goes. I don’t know what Unilever’s thinking is – whether it will have more firms, less firms, or whether it will keep the same arrangements in place.’

Unilever declined to comment on the current review, but its last panel review began in February 2014, with firms appointed on 1 July. It was Unilever’s first formal panel arrangement, with Cravath, Swaine & Moore, Olswang, Mayer Brown, Baker & McKenzie and Slaughter and May all securing spots.

The review was led by global legal operations director Saswata Mukherjee, assisted by group secretary Tonia Lovell and chief legal officer Ritva Sotamaa. A total of 16 firms were selected, with work divided between four panels: corporate, intellectual property, general contract commercial and construction, and engineering.

Speaking to Legal Business at the time, Mukherjee said: ‘We used to use a lot of firms based on relationship. We have just moved that into a more structured approach. Also it gives us flexibility in terms of negotiated rates across the globe, secondments and things like that.’

Other current panel reviews include HP Inc, which launched its first panel review following its split from Hewlett Packard, while Merlin Entertainments began considering firms for its first formal panel in August this year.