13 November 2019

BT lets go of ABS

UK communications giant gives ABS to law firm months after forming strategic partnership general counsel portrayed as transforming and simplifying.

UK communications company BT has passed ownership of its alternative business structure (ABS) to DWF following its recently announced strategic partnership. BT set up its legal arm six years ago.

Transforming and simplifying

In July, DWF signed a five-year contract to become BT's 'strategic legal partner,' and staff transferred from BT’s in-house legal teams to DWF. Sabine Chalmers, general counsel of BT, explained the move at the time “We are transforming and simplifying the way we work across BT - building strategic partnerships will play a big part in this.  Our partnership structure with DWF will ensure we continue to receive outstanding insurance and real estate legal services while those transferring to DWF are joining a fast-growing and innovative legal business.” According to documents filed at UK Companies House, BT Law is now part of DWF Connected Services, holding 75 percent or more of the shares in BT Law Limited. DWF chief executive Andrew Leaitherland and chief financial officer Chris Stefani are listed as new directors. BT obtained an ABS licence in 2013 and the firm used BT’s in-house team of over 70 legal and support staff to provide services to external clients, particularly those with large vehicle fleets.  In a statement, BT said “Following on from the appointment of DWF as a strategic legal partner earlier this year, we are continuing to transform and simplify the way we work across BT.  The acquisition of BT Law by DWF is an exciting step forward for both businesses, who will continue to deliver outstanding services.”

“Natural step”

A DWF spokesman stated the move is a “natural step” following the strategic partnership between BT and DWF. BT moved into the legal services market in 2013, initially to offer claims-handling services involving BT's own vehicles. According to its own statistics, BT Law handles around 7,000 motor claims annually, 6,000 public liability claims with a value of £8m, and 150 employers' liability claims with a value of over £20m. At the time of forming the original partner agreement, Mr Leaitherland, group ceo of DWF, said being selected by BT as a strategic legal partner was “great recognition for DWF's differentiated offering and our strategy of transforming legal services. It provides clear evidence that our compelling global offering of complex, managed and connected services is resonating with clients.”