Transport for London in mass cull of legal group

Legal function cut by half; Eversheds brought in as external advisers to fill the gap

Transport for London (TfL) is slashing its legal department by nearly 50 per cent, making up to 40 lawyers and staff redundant.

TfL, which is responsible for all of the capital’s transport needs, including London Underground, London Buses and the Congestion Charge, currently employs 70 lawyers and staff in the group.

However, following a wholesale review of TfL’s legal function by the government agency’s general counsel Fiona Smith, who replaced Gareth Davies in the role in autumn 2003, the department will be reorganised.

As first revealed on www.thelawyer.com (30 July), Eversheds has been appointed as legal adviser to TfL and will handle the bulk of the work that was undertaken by the lawyers who are being made redundant.

The law firm has not previously had a relationship with TfL and competed against a number of firms to secure a mandate to advise the government agency on commercial, litigation and property work.

Talking exclusively to The Lawyer, Smith said by outsourcing high-volume work to Eversheds, TfL’s in-house lawyers will be able to dedicate more time to the delivery of complex projects, such as the Thames Gateway Bridge and the extension of the Congestion Charge to Kensington.

She said: “[Appointing Eversheds] gives us flexibility to decide how much work should be outsourced and to build up our own skills. What we’re doing is in line with other large organisations.”

However, she added that TfL is also exploring the possibility of hiring lawyers with specific skills in handling big-ticket work and who will be able to work more effectively with external advisers.

Smith admitted that the tender process was driven by a desire to slash costs, but concluded: “I don’t like talking about cost saving per se – what we want is a legal team that will save money for TfL and add value.”