London Underground set for shake-up of external advisers

London Underground Limited (LUL) has kickstarted a full-scale review of its external lawyers in anticipation of the company being transferred to Transport for London (TfL) next month.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, LUL’s principal legal adviser, has been invited to pitch along with a number of other firms, including Herbert Smith and Shearman & Sterling.

However, it is understood that the likes of Ashurst Morris Crisp, Cameron McKenna, Lovells and Norton Rose have been conflicted out of pitching because, under the terms of the procurement rules, firms that have advised a counterparty in connection with the London Underground Public-Private Partnership (PPP) have been excluded from the panel review.

London Underground solicitor Sarah Atkins, who is leading the panel review, told The Lawyer that the completion of the London Under-ground PPP in April provided a good opportunity to review the company’s relationship with Freshfields, which adv-ised on the five-year project.

Atkins said that although LUL is happy with Freshfields’ work on the London Underground PPP, the commercial arrangements put in place with the magic circle firm at the start of the project had run their course.

However, sources close to the process believe that it is being driven by LUL’s imminent change of ownership.

As part of the review, LUL is planning to establish a two-tier panel comprising two key advisers to provide services in all areas, and another two to four firms that specialise in commercial and construction contracts, property, rail, litigation, intellectual property, competition, finance and tax.

LUL’s reorganisation will require the company’s legal function to split into two, resulting in 48 out of the 85 staff moving over to TfL. They will, in due course, become employees of Ken Livingstone’s department.