Co-op Group kicks off panel review with Allen & Overy to retain key adviser role

The Co-op Group is reviewing its corporate and commercial, property and litigation panels for the first time in seven years.

The review is being led by the group’s head of in-house legal operations, Helen Lowe, alongside head of legal for retail and digital Peter Horsfall, with the new panels expected to be in place by January 2018.

It is not yet known how many firms will be appointed to either roster, which operate alongside a primary adviser relationship with Allen & Overy (A&O) and a separate agreement with a number of firms advising on employment law.

Neither the relationship with A&O nor the employment law firms is up for debate as part of the current overhaul.

Co-op’s corporate and commercial panel currently consists of Addleshaw Goddard, TLT, and Pinsent Masons, as well as A&O.

Its property panel, meanwhile, includes Pinsents, Brodies, Weightmans, Hill Dickinson and south coast firm Paris Smith.

The latest review is expected to see the retailer focus on ensuring it is getting the right value from the external law firms that work alongside its 35-strong in-house legal team. In addition to the 35 lawyers, Co-op’s team also includes a further 15 trainees, paralegals and support staff.

The review is unrelated to the group’s banking arm, which recently lined up a £700m rescue package of capital from hedge funds and other investors. A&O is advising the Co-operative Group on the deal, which will see the group’s shareholding in the Co-op Bank fall from 20% to about 1%.

News of the review comes after Legal Week reported last week that Co-op group general counsel Alistair Asher is taking up a new role as director of special projects for the business, with former Dixons Carphone group GC Helen Grantham replacing him in the top legal role. Grantham, who joined the Co-op as interim group secretary in January 2016, formally takes up the group general counsel role this week.