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Dentons wins spot as Network Rail announces panel revamp

Network Rail has cut its legal roster from 12 to five core firms in a review that sees newly merged firm Dentons appointed to the panel.

Other firms awarded full service contracts for work in England and Wales are Bond Pearce (Bond Dickinson on 1 May), Eversheds and Addleshaw Goddard. Maclay Murray & Spens has been awarded the contract for Scottish law matters. All four were reappointed from the previous panel.

The firms will provide legal support to Network Rail’s entire business but with a particular focus on corporate projects, commercial contracts, dispute resolution, employment and property work.

Network Rail has also awarded three further contracts for work in specialist areas – to Clifford Chance for treasury and capital markets work; Kennedys for health & safety and regulatory enforcement; and Winckworth Sherwood for public law matters.

As of April 2012 Network Rail had a legal spend of around £15m per year.

Firms not re-appointed to the full panel are Simmons & Simmons, Berrymans Lace Mawer, Bircham Dyson Bell, MacRoberts, Schofield Sweeney and Winckworth Sherwood.

The tender, which was kicked off at a launch presentation in December, was put out to 20 firms, with a further seven unsuccessful.

The rail company’s review of its advisers, led by group general counsel Suzanne Wise, has centred on developing stronger relationships with its advisers and obtaining better value services.

Wise said: ‘This has not been about dissatisfaction with any of the company’s current suppliers. The decision to significantly reduce the size of the panel will drive efficiencies in line with the company’s business objectives. I wanted to develop deeper, more strategic relationships with fewer firms to drive better value and a more integrated approach to our work.’

A statement issued by Network Rail further explained: ‘Network Rail had found its legal spend spread too thinly across a panel of 12 firms making it difficult to develop a close strategic relationship whilst at the same time eroding the company’s ability to gain maximum benefit from the value added offered by many law firms in the market.’

Before joining Network Rail, Wise was general counsel and company secretary of Premier Foods, where she set up the FTSE 100 company’s first formal panel, appointing Eversheds, Slaughter and May and Wragge & Co.

She joined Network Rail in January 2012, with a brief to complete a wholesale review of the strategic objectives of the legal team, including a strategic vision for legal services.