Transport for London legal director: All change

Transport for London legal director Andrea Clarke’s remit has extended to take in new in-house and policing tasks – all while ensuring that the city keeps on moving

For most of us, the daily commute is more than enough public transport for one day. Not so for Andrea Clarke. As director of legal at Transport for London (TfL) Clarke works relentlessly to keep London moving 24/7.

TfL was created in 2000 as the body responsible for most aspects of the transport system in Greater London. It is the biggest integrated public transport network in Europe, carrying more than 3.7 billion passengers a year. To this end, the organisation manages assets in excess of £23bn.

At the heart of this mammoth project lies TfL Legal, the team tasked with ensuring the organisation’s legal matters are watertight. A big part of the team’s remit is supporting the delivery of major projects in TfL’s £6bn investment programme. These include the likes of Crossrail, upgrading tube lines and trains, and building and maintaining a trio of cycle superhighways, all the while making massive net savings in line with Government policy.


The right platform

“I always wanted to do something that affects people and the general public,” Clarke says, sitting in TfL’s homely Victoria Street HQ and recalling how she wound up training in-house at London Regional Transport in 1996.

Clarke qualified as a commercial lawyer before transferring to TfL when it was created four years later. In 2004 she became head of commercial law prior to being appointed director of legal for TfL Legal in May 2009. When TfL Legal and LU Legal were combined in 2011, Clarke became director of legal for the newly formed body.

“I feel like I’ve always been here, but actually I’ve been in a number of roles and it’s changed quite a lot,” she muses.

Of course, overseeing the merger of two immense legal bodies was no easy task, particularly in austere times.

“We had to bring the teams together and work out what our model would be,” she says. “We collected customer and business feedback, and found there was a strong preference for having work done in-house where possible.”

Priorities were shuffled, panels scrutinised and the floodgates for more change wedged open. In the past six months TfL has insourced work such as landlord and tenant litigation, commercial matters, and highways and planning work.

The organisation set about streamlining its legal panel, announcing in October 2012 it was cutting this from 12 to 11 firms. Bird & Bird, Clifford Chance, Manches and Travers Smith were notably absent from the list, replaced by Lewis Silkin, SNR Denton (now Dentons) and Trowers & Hamlin.

“We were keen to have firms that appreciate the challenges we face,” adds Clarke. “We look for people who take a pragmatic and collaborative approach.”

There is also a focus on value for money. TfL has shaved the areas in which it employs the help of external lawyers to purely commercial projects, property, employment and litigation matters. Counsel is instructed on a range of public law issues.

All this fat trimming has reduced external spend to between £12m and £15m per year, a saving of more than £1m a year.

Good service on all lines

All this sin a day’s work for Clarke, who heads TfL’s Legal’s team of 76 lawyers, alongside general counsel Howard Carter.

“The team is divided into six disciplines,” she explains.

There are two commercial law teams – one focused on Underground investment and the other on TfL’s commercial projects such as the Emirates cable car river crossing. There’s also property and planning, public and regulatory, commercial disputes and employment law.

“It really is a full-service practice,” Clarke stresses.

In January 2012 the TfL Legal team had an additional body bolted onto its remit: the newly established Mayor’s Office of Policing and Crime (Mopac). Its tasks include overseeing Scotland Yard, setting strategy and ensuring the accountability of policing.

“It’s a new organisation with new functions, not just a replacement for a predecessor,” says Clarke. “We were appointed to advise on its functions and a range of organisational issues.”

The team had the small matter of a mayoral election (‘London Elects’) to tackle in May.

“We played a pivotal role in the lead-up to, during and after the election,” Clarke says.

Smooth running

Behind all this internal tinkering, in 2011 and 2012 there was something far bigger brewing. People were donning their pink jackets and brushing up on their ping-pong know-how – the Olympics were coming to town.

“It was unprecedented,” insists Clarke. “There was a long lead-in and we were providing advice for quite a while. We advised on legal issues leading up to the Games, such as the Olympic Route Network and ensuring around 200 Traffic Regulation Orders were put in place, which was essential to manage the roads.”

Even as the Games were imminent there was a last-minute challenge to the Olympic Route Network from business owners who claimed the restrictions put jobs at risk.

“Thanks to the training our organisation had done, we were able to deal with that,” she says.

So, now Boris has emerged triumphant from the election and the Games are done and dusted, does TfL Legal get some breathing space? Not likely, says Clarke.

“I hear there’s a population equivalent to a full tube train born every week,” says Clarke.

Given the nature of London, the central challenge for Clarke’s team never varies – helping to keep the city moving and ensure its future isn’t derailed.

Andrea Clarke

Transport for London

Position: Director of Legal
Reporting to: GC Howard Carter
Legal spend: £12m-£15m
Legal capability: 76
Employees: 23,000
Main external firms: Ashurst, Berwin Leighton Paisner, Dentons, Eversheds, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith Freehills, K&L Gates, Lewis Silkin, Simmons & Simmons, Trowers & Hamlins, Wragge & Co

Elliot Laurie, group legal director, The Go-Ahead Group

Elliot Laurie

The nature of my role covers a wide spectrum: bus acquisitions, general commercial work, tender and procurement matters as well as franchise-related work. I have responsibility for all of the legals across Go-Ahead. My role extends to our approach to litigation as well as employment matters.

Our bus strategy focuses on promoting good quality services through existing and organic growth. Given the recent conclusions of the Competition Commission inquiry into the bus industry, our strategy continues to be conscious of the competition laws in which we operate.

The bus market has two sides: there is the London bus market, which is very regulated and managed by Transport for London (TfL). Outside London, it is much more commercial. There is a slight dichotomy between the two sides of the market so you need to ensure customers and government or local authorities remain happy with the services provided.

The train industry is heavily regulated. Much like our TfL business, our train operations aim to provide a well-run and quality business to meet not only the expectations of passengers but also those of government.

In meeting these demands, the choice of legal support is greatly influenced by the ability to provide commercial acumen and succinct, effective advice. This can be a challenge; to date, we seem to have been able to find the right balance of support through the combination of internal resources and third-party providers. Competition for our work is increasingly apparent so we are in the fortunate position of being able to pick and choose the best providers for the best prices.