BT Group offers automatic panel spot to firm that makes best use of AI

Latest roster reduced from 15 to 11 firms; carrot of free place for most tech-savvy firm offered for next review

BT Group has trimmed its legal panel from 15 to 11 firms and announced that the panel firm which makes best use of AI and legal tech will gain an automatic place when the roster is next reviewed.

Clifford Chance emerges as the big winner in the latest panel review, joining the roster at the expense of five existing firms that didn’t make the cut.

The other successful firms are Addleshaw Goddard, Allen & Overy, BCLP, Bird & Bird, CMS, DWF, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Osborne Clarke, Simmons & Simmons and TLT.

Covington & Burling, DAC Beachcroft, Lewis Silkin, Shepherd & Wedderburn and Winckworth Sherwood are no longer on the panel, although, with the exception of Lewis Silkin, they are able to bid for specific categories of legal work going forward, along with Belfast’s Cleaver Fulton Rankin and Trowers & Hamlins.

BT said reducing the number of firms from 15 to 11 would allow it to “focus its legal work with a smaller set of key strategic partners” and held out the carrot of an automatic place when the panel is next reviewed in three years’ time to “the firm that evidences the most efficiencies through the use of AI and other technologies”.

That means two spots on its next panel will be allocated to firms that meet specific criteria, BT having last year confirmed Addleshaws’ reappointment a year early “as the firm on its existing panel most effectively driving diversity and inclusion (D&I) across all areas of its organisation”.

Sabine Chalmers, BT’s general counsel, director of regulatory affairs and company secretary, said: “The firms selected for our next legal panel underwent a rigorous selection process, during which they provided clear evidence of best-in-class capabilities across a wide range of fields.”

BT said law firms in consideration for panel places were benchmarked on criteria including “experience, cost and their ability to support the development of BT Group’s in-house legal talent”.

It added that “usage and incorporation of AI in their operations was also a key selection metric”.

BT is among a small group of large corporates which publish details of their panel reviews and use the process to reward high-performing firms and encourage them to meet ESG objectives.

In December, Standard Chartered set up a taskforce with four of its legal advisers to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the UK.

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