Barclays’ legal services hub in Birmingham was a year old on 1 July but you may have yet to hear of it. While it has been kept deliberately low key it is, as was seen in the banking giant’s innovative panel review, another example of how Barclays is making great strides in providing smarter legal services.

The Central Legal Team, which despite its July birthday was only fully formed in November, is based in Barclays’ corporate office at One Snowhill, although it also has team members in other Midlands offices.

Formed as part of Barclays legal function’s strategy to ensure ‘the right work is done by the right colleagues in the right location in the right way at the right price’, the CLT, headed by director Jon Seymour, has reached just under 30 legal advisers, of which approximately half are paralegals and the other half lawyers. Seymour was previously senior legal counsel for Barclaycard, having joined Barclays in 2006 from DLA Piper.

The highly diverse team includes advisers hired from both private practice and in-house, whose sector experience spans financial services, real estate, pensions, energy, niche renewable energy and consumables.  Hires include legal counsel Emma Dolphin, who joined in November 2015 from Shoosmiths and Ross MacTaggart, who joined in the same month from Eversheds, where he was an associate.

While the CLT does provide a useful resource for commoditised legal work, and could therefore be regarded as a nearshoring exercise, it goes much further than that.

Barclays’ objective in setting up the CLT was to improve effectiveness through collaboration and to improve efficiencies through automation and streamlining processes.  Suitable work types were drawn from existing legal teams and a process was initiated to transition the work types to the CLT in a controlled way. These include the drafting of playbooks; dual running periods during which the receiving legal professionals worked together with the transferring lawyers to up-skill; and intensive training and ongoing buddying between the respective legal teams.

Some of the work types undertaken by the CLT are highly commoditised, whereas others are relatively complex.  Detailed criteria were applied to decide which work types were appropriate for the CLT, which included operational and engagement models, suitability for centralisation, standardisation and autonomy, degree and type of stakeholder engagement necessary, type, value, risk and complexity of work. The CLT forms part of the Legal Services Hub, an international collection of teams which each aims to deliver standardised legal services in the most effective, efficient way possible.  Technology, including work flow management and automation, are critical to that, as are process optimisation methodologies such as Lean Six Sigma.

While panel law firms currently can be expected to have little interaction with CLT, Barclays has not ruled out the possibility of the CLT directly instructing third parties.

Stéphanie Hamon, managing director of a newly-created commercial management team, which was set up to review and run the Barclays panel, told Legal IT Insider: “What we are trying to do is make sure we have the right commercial construct in what we send to law firms and what is kept in-house. It’s about becoming more savvy and having the right metrics.”

The move coincides with HSBC’s decision to move around 20 of its London lawyers to Birmingham by 2017, although that is in line with new ring-fencing reforms and part of a wider relocation to Birmingham by the bank. Law firms that have set up a nearshoring venture in Birmingham include Hogan Lovells and Trowers & Hamlins.