Legal Business

‘A wonderful opportunity’: Network Rail begins long journey to new £70m adviser panel

‘A wonderful opportunity’: Network Rail begins long journey to new £70m adviser panel

Network Rail has begun its longest-ever panel review process for external adviser work, which could be worth up to £70m over five years from next April.

The rail company’s review will be the first under new group general counsel Stuart Kelly, who was promoted from deputy group GC following the departure of Suzanne Wise in March last year for a non-legal role as senior vice-president for corporate development at Japan Tobacco International . The review will be led by Network Rail route businesses GC Dan Kayne.

Network Rail’s new panel is expected to cover a full range of legal services to support the 26-lawyer in-house team on its corporate functions and route businesses between 2019 and 2024. It was last reviewed in 2013, when Eversheds Sutherland, Addleshaw Goddard, Bond Dickinson, Dentons and Maclay Murray & Spens were all appointed. The latter has since merged with Dentons, taking the number of firms to four.

The panel has an estimated value of £70m and Network Rail is seeking a small number of suppliers that it expects will provide innovative approaches to ensure value for money for the taxpayer. The pitch tender document says: ‘We would like to encourage prospective bidders who are forward thinking, committed to innovation and who are open to alternative ways of delivering our requirement for a full legal service.’

Kelly added: ‘This is a wonderful opportunity for the legal market to demonstrate to us they share our vision of delivering a great service to our customers – that they are forward thinking in terms of their offering and, perhaps most importantly, they want to be our partners in supporting the business to effectively deliver a growing, reliable, safe and affordable railway.’

He recently told Legal Business Network Rail would be spending longer working on its new panel than the company has ever done before, aligning it with a new five-year corporate strategy for the overall business.

Kelly, in his second stint at Network Rail, was previously involved in the decision by Severn Trent to stick with Eversheds as the company’s sole adviser until 2020 and later in the decision by Network Rail to expand the existing panel until 2019.

Legal Business

In-house: Kelly takes group GC role at Network Rail following Wise’s departure

In-house: Kelly takes group GC role at Network Rail following Wise’s departure

Stuart Kelly has been appointed as group general counsel and company secretary at Network Rail, following the departure of Suzanne Wise, who left the rail company in March to take a non-legal role at Japan Tobacco International (JTI) as a senior vice-president for corporate development.

Kelly has served as deputy group GC at Network Rail since June 2015, when he returned to the company from FTSE 100 water company Severn Trent, where he also held the position of deputy GC. He had previously been a commercial legal adviser for Network Rail for more than four years before joining Severn Trent.

He was involved in the decision by Severn Trent to stick with Eversheds as the company’s sole adviser until 2020 and later in the decision by Network rail to expand the existing panel consisting of Addleshaw Goddard, Eversheds, Bond Dickinson, Dentons and Maclay Murray & Spens until 2019.

Wise, who has been group GC at Network Rail for five years, will be based in Geneva and will join JTI on 1 June 2017.

Legal Business 2012 GC Powerlist member Wise was responsible for more than 40 lawyers and staff at Network Rail, which included the transparency and business ethics function. She was a member of Network Rail’s executive committee and chaired the business’ risk review group.

JTI has 367 offices worldwide, producing cigarette brands including Camel, Benson & Hedges and Sobranie. Wise will report to JTI’s incoming chief executive, Eddy Pirard, who will assume his role on 1 April 2017 after replacing Thomas McCoy.

Wise’s departure followed the resignation of long-serving corporate legal chief Natalie Jobling in September 2015. Jobling reported to Wise, and was responsible for restructuring the legal team and aiding the organisation’s transition from an independent company to public sector ownership.

Read more on transport and infrastruture in: ‘Getting there eventually? Infrastructure moves centre-stage as Western economies look for growth


Legal Business

‘A straightforward decision’: Network Rail extends adviser panel for three more years


Network Rail has reappointed its five core firms – Addleshaw Goddard, Eversheds, Bond Dickinson, Dentons and Maclay Murray & Spens – to its panel until 2019.

The adviser review was run by Network Rail’s legal counsel Paul Hopton and Karen Stapleton. Deputy general counsel (GC) Stuart Kelly said the decision was based on satisfaction with the value provided and the opportunity to plan ahead.

‘We have exercised options under the contract to extend with each of the five firms. We will re-tender when we get to the end of the control period. We are getting the quality in terms of value and it gives us the opportunity to plan for the next control period. It was a straightforward decision whether or not to extend. There was an option for us to do so and of course the firms could have rejected it but they were all delighted to accept.’

Network Rail last carried out a panel review in 2013, when the rail company cut its legal roster from 12 to five core firms, with Dentons awarded a first-time slot on the panel. Eversheds, Addleshaw, Bond Dickinson and Dentons were awarded full-service contracts for work in England and Wales, while Maclay Murray & Spens were awarded the contract for Scottish law matters.

Speaking to Legal Business last year, GC Suzanne Wise said the previous panel of 12 firms was ‘too big to manage successfully.’

She added: ‘I want a panel working in partnership with us, an extension of the in-house legal team, and doing that with ten plus law firms is too many relationships to manage. We didn’t have the right relationships and we were missing the economies of scale. Our legal spend is £10m-£15m [a year]. If you spread that across ten firms you are a relatively small client, but if you spread that among five you start to become a much more meaningful client, you get more value-adds, you get more focus and more attention.’

In May last year Network Rail instructed Eversheds on its legal challenge to the TSSA union in an attempt to limit disruption over a proposed rail strike.

Legal Business

In-house: Severn Trent’s Kelly returns to Network Rail as its first deputy group GC


Network Rail has appointed Severn Trent’s deputy general counsel (GC) Stuart Kelly as its first deputy group GC. Kelly, who returned to the rail company in June, had worked there for more than four years as a commercial legal advisor, prior to his five year stint at Severn Trent.

Kelly held various roles at the FTSE 100 water company, including as head of legal and head of business development before his appointment as deputy GC in July 2014.

In his new role as deputy group GC, Kelly has responsibility for both the legal and company secretarial teams, with the GC for corporate Natalie Jobling, the GC for routes Richard Smith and the GC for property Cathy Crick, all reporting to him directly.

The new role of deputy GC has come as a result of the expansion of the GC function at Network Rail over recent years. It now includes functions such as freedom of information, transparency, ethics and corporate commercial. Kelly will focus on some of the more traditional GC duties, freeing up the company’s group GC Suzanne Wise to support the non-legal functions in the company such as its reverse procurement function.

Following Kelly’s departure the deputy GC role at Severn Trent will be split, with current head of legal Shazadi Karamat taking responsibility for the legal function, and a new appointment to lead the company secretarial team.

The 35 member legal team at Network Rail currently sit alongside business lines, with the litigation and commercial teams sitting together in groups which mirror the company’s routes structure.

Earlier this month Network Rail said Jobling would stand down after nearly ten years at the company. It is understood she is due to depart in the next few weeks, and although no permanent replacement has been found, a secondee will be appointed to fill the role in the meantime.

Legal Business

In-house: Network Rail corporate legal chief stands down after almost a decade


After nearly ten years of service at Network Rail including helping to restructure the body’s legal team and transfer to the public sector, corporate legal chief Natalie Jobling is standing down.

During her tenure at Network Rail, Jobling helped restructure the legal team and aided the rail organisation’s transition from an independent company to public sector ownership. Network Rail confirmed Jobling had stood down and said no replacement has been found yet. It is not yet clear what she will be doing next.

Jobling reported to general counsel (GC) Suzanne Wise, and was appointed GC corporate in April 2013, after serving as head of legal services commercial since March 2006. Before this, she was European legal counsel at GE Consumer Finance from June 2004.  She also has worked on transactions, and has experience in regulated industries, competition law and compliance, and state aid.

Network Rail has an annual turnover of £6.3bn and around 34,000 employees, and uses a legal panel of five core firms for legal advice including Bond Dickinson, Dentons and Addleshaw Goddard alongside Eversheds, while Maclay Murray & Spens are used for Scottish law matters.

The organisation also uses three other firms for work in specialist areas including Clifford Chance for treasury/capital markets matters; Kennedys for health & safety and regulatory enforcement; and Winckworth Sherwood for public law. The panel was cut by more than half in 2013, when Network Rail reduced the amount of firms on its roster to five from 12. 

Legal Business

Strike action: Network Rail turns to Eversheds for legal challenge over rail workers’ looming walkout


Eversheds has been instructed by Network Rail on its legal challenge to the TSSA union in an attempt to limit disruption should talks regarding a planned rail strike this bank holiday weekend fail.

With members of the TSSA voting to join RMT union workers in a 24-hour walkout from 5pm on Monday over pay and jobs, Network Rail alleges there were ‘numerous defects’ in the union’s ballot information. An interim injunction application hearing against the TSSA is set for tomorrow (21 May) at the High Court unless parties resolve the issue before then.

Network Rail are represented by a team from Eversheds led by partner and head of industrial relations in the London office Marc Meryon. The firm has instructed Fountain Court Chambers’ Paul Gott QC and Devereux Chambers’ Bruce Carr QC. The TSSA is represented by trade union and personal injury firm Morrish Solicitors with senior partner Paul Scholey leading. The Leeds-based firm has instructed Old Square Chambers’ John Hendy QC alongside barrister Betsan Criddle.

In total the dispute affects around 25,000 of Network Rail’s 35,000 staff.

A Network Rail spokesperson said yesterday (19 May): ‘We have asked the TSSA to withdraw notice of their industrial action as we believe there are numerous defects in their ballot information. Network Rail has a responsibility to passengers, freight users and to the country as a whole to do everything we can to avert a strike. Talks with the unions continue and we hope to reach a settlement, but we must explore all avenues at our disposal and that includes legal ones.’

TSSA’s general secretary Manuel Cortes said: ‘Our members are clearly very angry over the four year pay offer and particularly the one off £500 payment for this year which would mean them falling behind the cost of living. The last three years with RPI increases mean they would keep ahead with the cost of living. That is also what we want to see for this year as well. We are involved in talks to avert a dispute and we hope those talks succeed. No one wants to see a Bank Holiday weekend disrupted for millions of passengers.’

Legal Business

Client profile: Suzanne Wise, Network Rail


The rail company’s GC on the challenges of working in a highly specialised industry.

Suzanne Wise first thought it was a joke when she was asked to interview for the top legal role at Network Rail – the controversial owner and operator of most of the rail infrastructure across England, Scotland and Wales.

Legal Business

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.