Construction giant Carillion has become the first corporate to use a brand new online tool to conduct its law firm panel review, which concluded earlier this year after using SmartPanel.

Law firms applying for a place in Carillion’s network of advisers were asked to use the web-based platform, which facilitates side-by-side comparison of law firm responses. Solicitors reviewing the submissions are easily able to search through them online and make notes within SmartPanel, meaning the notes can be referred to at interview stage.

According to Carillion’s director of legal services and company secretary Richard Tapp, all law firm applicants were required to provide additional information on diversity and innovation, which within SmartPanel’s platform are harder to avoid and elicit more interesting answers than usual. Carillion solicitor Shaun Johnson project managed the panel process, which Carillion was keen to conclude quickly after it was delayed by failed merger talks with rival Balfour Beatty.

SmartPanel has been built by legal technology design firm SION1 and includes design input from a number of ex-general counsel, including Ann Page, co-founder of the GC Research Club.

According to SION1’s general manager Alex Ang, using SmartPanel means the time and cost of the panel process is cut by around 45%. He said: “Traditionally, appointing and reviewing a panel has been a very long drawn out and expensive process in both time and resources. We have designed and successfully delivered an online platform, the SmartPanel, which turns a complex and time consuming process into an efficient, cost-effective system.

“What makes us different is that we provide a managed service for the whole process. A lot of our competition is either large and complex procurement software or burdensome email trails. SmartPanel provides the complete package of technology, process, precedents, research from the GC Research club on value add services, and project management.”

Carillion’s 11-strong panel, which comprises Slaughter and May, Linklaters, DLA Piper, Clyde & Co, Clarkslegal, FBC Manby Bowdler, Irwin Mitchell, Kennedys, MacRoberts, Pinsent Masons and RPC, was selected within four months of the review process beginning.