Legal panels: what they are and how to talk about them at interview

Many law students will know nothing about legal panels but ignore them at your peril, they are a vital source of income for many firms.

Being able to talk about why that is, and why firms invest so much time and energy into being picked to be part of one, will impress at interview.

Here is Lawyer 2B’s run down to help you swot up on the importance of panels:

Q: What is a legal panel?

A: Any large business will need legal help on a regular basis. If a company had to hunt down the right law firm for the job every time they wanted to review a contract or enter into an association with another company, it would be a waste of time and money. The alternative to this is a legal panel. A panel is a group of law firms which all pitch for the company’s business on a once-only basis.

Q: What happens once a firm is admitted to a panel?

A: Traditionally, panels are reviewed every few years but otherwise law firms can essentially sit tight and, so long as they do a good job, receive a guaranteed source of income. Increasingly however, winning a place on a panel is just the beginning – companies will then set panel law firms against each other to get the best deal for a specific piece of work.

Q: Are there any other benefits to being on a panel?

A: As well as the income, prestige is a factor. If a firm is selected to Shell’s panel, for instance, that sends out a message about the strength of its energy department and expertise, and could well attract similar companies to consider it for their panel, therefore boosting the firm’s income and prestige further.

Q: How can I best showcase my knowledge on panels?

A: When you’re researching firms, have a look and see if they are on the panels of any heavy-hitting organisations – banks, public bodies, FTSE companies. If they are, that’s a positive sign. Simply being able to demonstrate your knowledge of a firm’s sources of income and how it works on a day-to-day basis will always be valuable.