When I wrote a month ago about letting a thousand flowers bloom in the world of legal services (here and here), I expected these changes to occur after the licences for Alternative Business Structures (ABS) were issued in October 2011 by the Legal Services Board.
But ideas don't always wait for their cues.
Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) is taking over the legal department of Thames Water. BLP will take over 15 of Thames' lawyers in a new managed legal services division. According to the Lawyer the deal will be worth around £5 million a year to BLP.
As a result of being on Thames' legal panel, BLP had already taken on around 20% of the company's work. Now that it has taken on their legal team it will be taking over the remainder of the former panel's work. (The panel was heavily populated by the Magic Circle.)
The effect is to embed the law firm inside Thames Water to do the key strategic work while more mundane matters will be cascaded out, Mexican Wave style, to regional law firms.
Without going into detail, the Lawyer coyly mentions that the Thames' lawyers will be paid differently "but not necessarily less."
Having just been at the Georgetown Law Center conference on Law Firm Evolution: Brave New World or Business as Usual? where ideas like this were mooted, it's fascinating to see them come into play. American lawyers have a lot to learn yet on this.