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British “panels” and American “preferred law firms”

Many British companies have selected “panels,” small groups of firms that handle a company’s legal work in certain areas, such as commercial, litigation, environmental, or human resources.  For example, the British bank, Barclays, has 37 law firms on its UK-based panels.

According to an article in the Financial Times (April 14, 2005), “a position on such a panel guarantees a certain amount of work and so is highly prized by law firms.”

US law departments that narrow their list of preferred counsel, this country’s panel equivalent, do not typically guarantee those firms any volume of fees.  But if the work comes to the department, the firms enjoy something akin to a right of first refusal.