Royal Mail general counsel Neil Harnby is leaving the company at the end of this year after four years at the helm of the company’s legal team.

Harnby, who featured in The Lawyer’s Hot 100 list in 2014 and whose team won The Lawyer’s In-House Team of the Year award that same year, has decided to step down two years after the company floated on the London stock exchange.

Harnby has confirmed plans to take a sabbatical from the company, with the aim of returning to an in-house role in the near future. His replacement has yet to be announced.

Before joining Royal Mail, Harnby was the general counsel for Europe, the Middle East and Africa for GE Capital for three years (10 August 2009). Harnby had been a partner at Linklaters since 2004 and was based in London. Prior to joining the firm, he was an associate at legacy Denton Wilde Sapte, now Dentons, and legacy Rowe & Mawe, now Mayer Brown.

At Royal Mail, Harnby’s team steered the company through the politically charged IPO (6 June 2013), negotiated an industrial relations agreement with the Communications Workers Union (CWU) covering some 139,000 employees, and brought the legal team into the heart of decision-making at the company (23 February 2015).

Royal Mail finished its first panel last year, dropping Bond Dickinson on an expanded roster (27 November 2014).

Royal Mail now has an 15-strong legal line-up, with Addleshaw Goddard, Bristows, CMS Cameron McKenna, DAC Beachcroft, Dentons, Herbert Smith Freehills, Macfarlanes, Michael Simkins, Slaughter and May, Strata Solicitors and Weightmans on the main panel.

In Northern Ireland the company uses Carson McDowell and Napier & Sons, while in Scotland it uses Morton Fraser.

Harnby also oversaw the relaunch of Royal Mail’s training contract and the launch of a work experience programme to staff and their families (14 January 2015).

This news comes after Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer retained its role for the Government on the future of Royal Mail, advising as the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) sells its remaining 30 per cent stake in the company valued at around £1.5bn (8 June 2015).