Legal Business

In-house: BT selects Axiom to replace UnitedLex as new LPO provider

In-house: BT selects Axiom to replace UnitedLex as new LPO provider

An innovator long at the vanguard of transforming the traditional in-house legal function, BT has just entered into a three-year contract with Axiom to provide legal support services across the UK, US, Africa, Middle East and Asia, replacing a contract formerly held by legal process outsourcing (LPO) provider UnitedLex.

All work previously undertaken by UnitedLex, which includes 30% of BT’s global services division’s legal work in the UK, transferred to Axiom on 1 February after a successful tender process that concluded towards the end of last year.

Axiom will support BT from its European headquarters in London and international centres in Belfast, Gurgaon and Houston, giving the telecoms giant commercial and administrative support for 20 hours a day.

Axiom’s LPO arm will also act as triage for work coming into the legal department under what BT refers to as its ‘front door policy’ – applying a detailed criteria to decide whether work should be either handled by Axiom, sent on to BT’s legal department or reserved for a dialogue over the appropriate response.

This unique set up was successfully trialled by UnitedLex, which since had undertaken low-level contract work for BT in the US and India since 2010.

Under the new arrangement, Axiom will be responsible for providing a variety of lower-level legal support services to BT on commercial contracts, as well as an element of administration. It is also undertaking key contract analytics with a view to monitoring and improving those agreements.

The move, which comes as large corporates such as BT and Vodafone are increasingly taking steps to free up their in-house lawyers to focus on high-level legal work, is part of BT’s efforts to streamline the ‘who’ and ‘how’ of its legal function by systematically delegating tasks to the most appropriate team member and accelerating response times.

BT’s director of compliance and COO, Gareth Tipton, who has been overseeing the process said: ‘This relationship will not only enable BT to support its contracting function more efficiently, but it will allow the in-house legal team to delegate work that does not require their specific expertise in order to focus on the more complex legal and commercial challenges that impact corporate objectives and add bottom-line value to the business.’

Axiom will also assist BT in the creation of tangible tools (from templates to clause libraries to playbooks) to assist with this process.

Tipton added: ‘This is the next stage of our LPO story and an important part of BT ‘s legal transformation programme.’

Legal Business

Virtual law: Mercedes-Benz UK GC sets up Radius Law

Virtual law: Mercedes-Benz UK GC sets up Radius Law

The virtual law space has a new entrant after former Mercedes-Benz UK group general counsel and head of compliance Iain Larkins this month left his role at the luxury vehicle company to found virtual commercial firm Radius Law.

Speaking to Legal Business, Larkins, who has worked in-house for 14 years, says the fundamental premise of Radius Law is to provide good commercial advice in areas including contract, disputes and competition at a ‘highly competitive’ rate, something he says is still difficult to achieve at many traditional law firms.

‘We created a model where the lawyers are free to give good commercial advice and worked hard on finding the right lawyers. Most of the lawyers have previous commercial experience and in many cases, have done business roles in-house. It was a rigorous process to prove they would give good commercial judgment rather than just legalese,’ Larkins commented.

The company is starting from small beginnings, with five lawyers on its books, who will all work from home and none of whom are expected to bring clients with them.

‘What’s attractive to lawyers wanting to join is there’s no expectation that you’ll bring a big following. Lawyers can come in and do the work they love doing without the hassle of having to bring a bunch of clients,’ Larkins adds.

Similar small sized models to Radius Law have been steadily emerging across the sector, including virtual firm Mackay Carter Shaw headed by former London Stock Exchange legal chief Tom Mackay together with Jennifer Carter Shaw, a commercial lawyer formerly at Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle.

At the larger end of the scale 130-lawyer Keystone Law this year converted to an alternative business structure and turned over £12.3m (an increase of 9.8% on 2011/12). Elsewhere, leading flexible resource providers such as Axiom and Lawyers on Demand (LoD) have traditionally sent lawyers to work with the client on site, although this summer LoD launched a new offering, ‘on call’, where lawyers will undertake legal work for other law firms, often from their own home.

Radius Law received authorisation from the Solicitors Regulation Authority on 1 September.