Network Rail has cut its core legal panel from 12 firms to five following a review that has seen Dentons win a new spot on the roster.

Suzanne Wise
Suzanne Wise

The revamped full-service adviser list comprises existing panellists Addleshaw Goddard, Bond Pearce (Bond Dickinson from 1 May) and Eversheds, as well as Maclay Murray & Spens for Scottish work, with Dentons the only addition.

It has also awarded specialist contracts to Kennedys for health and safety and regulatory enforcement, Winckworth Sherwood for public law and Clifford Chance for treasury and capital markets matters. All three previously had spots on the core panel.

Previous panellists no longer on the list are Berrymans Lace Mawer, Bircham Dyson Bell, Yorkshire firm Schofield Sweeney, Simmons & Simmons and Scotland’s MacRoberts. Simmons decided not to re-tender. The previous review was in 2009 (27 April 2009).

Following the panel review in 2013 BLM was the sole firm to be appointed to Network Rail’s insurance based legal services panel.

The focus of the advisers’ roles will be in corporate projects, commercial contracts, dispute resolution, employment and property. The appointments are for four years, with a possibility to extend them for a further two.

Late last year Network Rail invited all 12 existing panel firms and a further eight to pitch for the new roster shortly after the appointment of former Premier Foods legal chief Suzanne Wise as its general counsel (27 November 2012).

In a statement, the group said the smaller panel would help it develop “closer, more mutually beneficial and strategic relationships” with external lawyers.

It added: “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. Network Rail has reduced the size of its legal panel without compromising quality of legal service and support to the business, and taking into account conflicts.”

Wise added: “I was very impressed with the quality of the proposals submitted by the law firms asked to take part, in what has been a robust and challenging process. 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.”