Rail regulator plans panel growth

The Office of the Rail Regulator (ORR) has received tenders following its bid to expand its panel.

The office has always used Slaughter and May together with a professor at King’s College of Law, Richard Whish, who advises on competition issues.
“We’ll be keeping Slaughters and Whish,” head of legal Sally Barrett-Williams told The Lawyer. “However, we recognise that law firms are going to have potential conflicts of interest and we may need to use somebody else. Therefore, we want a panel with a few firms in order to avoid a situation where we could end up without external advice.”
The office is looking for at least one other big firm and one small firm. Barrett-Williams said: “There was a better response than I was expecting and we haven’t fully made up our minds as to what we need. It depends very much on whom is shortlisted. Basically, I’m looking for legal expertise with value for money. The external lawyers will work with internal lawyers, with the latter managing the team. It’s important not to cut internal lawyers out of the loop when using other law firms.”
Slaughters partner Simon Phillips said that the firm is not concerned about losing work to other firms. “We have a lot of background knowledge of the contractual regime,” he said.
Slaughters has worked for the ORR since before privatisation and played a large part in the initial contractual regime. It is currently involved in the introduction of model clauses into the standard form contracts.
Shortlisted firms will be invited to talk to a four-man panel, which will be made up of Barrett-Williams, rail regulator Tom Winsor, civil servant Nicola Shaw, and finance officer Roderick Arnold.
The ORR also plans to recruit a number of new lawyers. Currently, there is a team of six, and Barrett-Williams hopes new lawyers will be attracted to the opportunities that the ORR can offer. Barrett-Williams said that because the firm is in the Government Legal Services, there is a huge pool of legal work and opportunities to be promoted within the organisation.
Barrett-Williams has a new deputy starting next month. Elaine Harris qualified in Scotland and was head of legal at Strathclyde Passenger Transport Executive. Barrett-Williams said: “Elaine is quite young and feisty. She has exactly the right attitude to management and what lawyers need. She’ll be immensely easy to work with.”