Two years ago, we had to ask externally how much we were spending - an unsatisfactory situation for any organisation. Now at the click of a mouse we can see exactly how much we spend with each firm, in real time, on particular work types across the country. That’s a very different, and better, place to be.Dan Kayne General Counsel (Regions)
As the body responsible for the safe operation of 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges and viaducts and 20 of Britain’s largest stations, Network Rail handles a substantial legal caseload. Two years ago its in-house legal department was working with six external law firms, but had limited understanding of exactly where its £15m annual spend was going.
While Network Rail asked firms to submit quarterly reports, producing metrics packs was an additional burden on partner firms and generated data that was at least three months out of date. The inevitable consequence was duplicated activity and less-than-optimal relationships with firms. ‘It was an unsatisfactory situation for any organisation to be in,’ says Dan Kayne, GC (Regions).
Meanwhile, Network Rail also wanted to cut back its panel in a new framework contract that would drive better value for money. However it would be impossible to achieve this without accurate information about what its current law firms were doing.
The way forward was a step change in real-time data. Network Rail was an early adopter of Apperio’s system for automated legal spend analytics. But the team recognised that it had to invest time and effort, working with external firms, to configure the system so that it gave the right granularity of information: on a discipline-by-discipline and region-by-region basis.
This meant working closely with external firms – who had the incentive of cutting the time spent on quarterly reports – as well as getting buy-in from the in-house team. ‘To get the maximum benefit out, you need to dedicate time up-front,’ says Kayne. ‘You have to be very clear about the objectives, the problems you’re trying to solve.’
Two years of preparatory work went in to the panel review. A core part of this effort was analysing the data made available through Apperio in order to go to the market with reliable data and enable suppliers to bid with confidence. This allowed firms to be clearer. in their offerings and plan their resources accordingly.
Being on top of the numbers through Apperio can transform performance. Most immediately, the in-house team can make management decisions based on real-time data about precisely what kind of matters are soaking up resources, and where.
Secondly, the team at Network Rail has been able to identify where money is being spent on work externally that duplicates work being done internally. This information is the starting point for savings – in internal teams carrying out employment work, for example.
Finally, getting to grips with data on legal spend underpinned a major panel review, which cut the number of external firms from six to three. The better information available allowed the firms to make competitive bids.
As to the future, Network Rail is working with Apperio to make the flow of information even more intuitive and personalised, with automated email notifications – as chosen by individual users – as needed.
Bringing complete control to in-house legal spend
By understanding the details of its legal spend, Network Rail has transformed its relations with panel firms and saved substantial sums in external costs by cutting duplicated effort. The result has been a win for the panel firms as well as the Network Rail legal team and its parent organization in its vital work running Britain’s rail infrastructure.