09:47, June 06 571 0

2017-06-06 09:47:08
Thames Water puts BLP mandate up for review in panel overhaul

Thames Water is putting its sole adviser mandate with Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) up for review, introducing a new £90m panel.

The company has invited firms to pitch for spaces on two lots of the panel after announcing plans to revamp its external adviser options last November.

A roadshow was held for interested law firm partners in January, with partners asked to fill out a questionnaire in advance to guide Thames Water’s procurement team through the tender process.

In the questionnaire, Thames Water acknowledged it had an on-site legal team employed by BLP, which it wished to maintain. It asked firms to advise of any challenges in relation to this, given that the on-site team would be covered by TUPE.

It also asked firms to supply details of value-added services and innovations to complement their offering.

The tender represents a change in thinking by Thames Water, which entered into an outsourcing arrangement with BLP in 2010 and transferred its in-house team to the firm.

An on-site team of solicitors and paralegals were embedded in Thames Water’s head office in Reading, while other instructions were handled in BLP’s London office or regional firm partners.

Since 2010, the managed legal services (MLS) group has been led by BLP partner John Bennett.

However, a number of changes have occurred in Thames Water’s on-site team, with head of legal Bill Blackburn leaving the company at the start of 2016. Sarah Sear now leads the group as senior legal counsel, which consists of 16 lawyers, two paralegals and two support staff.

Thames Water opened the tender last month, with a deadline set for July. It is to create two panels – the first lot valued at £40m.

The lot will take the form of an MLS agreement – similar to the fixed-fee outsourcing solution run by BLP. Five firms will be invited to pitch to handle the majority of Thames Water’s legal requirements. It requires the retention of the on-site team based in Reading, and will last for five years with options to extend for up to three years.

The second lot is very similar, although more firms will be invited back to pitch for places. It is valued at £8m and includes work on formal regulatory investigations, class actions, corporate work and major projects.