Network Rail’s legal department transforms matter management with Repstor’s Custodian for Legal

Network Rail owns, operates and develops Britain’s Railway infrastructure. Its responsibilities include keeping passengers and freight services moving, and upholding public safety - by developing and maintaining the core physical infrastructure of the network, and ensuring efficient management of its assets.

Network Rail’s 40-strong legal team spans the length of the British mainland, spread across numerous locations. The department as a whole has a huge and diverse remit, which covers everything from health and safety, procurement and commercial contracts to property and environmental matters. To fulfil some of these commitments, the legal team outsources work to a panel of law firms – via contracts that it needs to monitor for efficiency and value for money.

Restoring order, unlocking insights 
Until mid-2020, Network Rail’s legal matter management activities were largely fragmented and ad-hoc. Although the company had invested in a dedicated matter management system, this had proved cumbersome and unintuitive and was not widely used. 

“We had a situation where teams were using various workarounds, including storing everything locally on Outlook drives, and saving each individual email with its own title so we could retrieve them again later,” says Kate Maton, Network Rail’s Legal Operations Manager. 

Beyond the impact on its professionals’ efficiency, the lack of a consistent centralised solution impeded business continuity. If someone was off sick or away from the office, the latest matter-related email threads and document versions were inaccessible to and undiscoverable by colleagues. The lack of consistency in information management also prevented a line of sight across operations.

“As long as everyone was doing their own thing, we couldn’t spot trends or anomalies in our activity across the regions, or be smarter in our spending – something we’re under continuous pressure to do,” Kate notes.

Exploiting existing investment in Microsoft 365
Recognising that something needed to be done, the legal team issued an RFP for a better solution. The legal operations team at the time also sought recommendations from peers, and Repstor’s name was among those that emerged, suggested by Konexo Global, the legal and compliance services arm of Eversheds Sutherland, one of Network Rail’s panel law firms. Konexo provides advisory services around Repstor’s Custodian for Legal™ software, which Eversheds Sutherland’s legal practitioners helped to shape.

Repstor is a software provider that bases its matter management in Outlook and Microsoft 365, which was a great fit as Network Rail employs around 40,000 people, most of whom already use Outlook as standard. The company had recently invested in moving to Microsoft 365 - running its Microsoft applications in the cloud – so being able to consolidate its matter management within the same platform, and extend the return on this investment, was ideal.

Custodian for Legal offered a document and matter management solution that was intuitive and familiar to use, delivered within Outlook, with a clear and simple interface. 

“Users have really taken to the new system,” Kate says. 

“Legal professionals go out of their way to tell us it’s been ‘transformational’ for them. That’s down to the ease of use, and the fact that they can easily find everything they need”.

The Repstor system auto-prompts users to save or ‘send and tag’ emails and attachments, so filing the latest information and documents in the proper place should become second nature.

Knowledge is power
More valuable still are the data insights the legal operations team now has access to, thanks to Custodian for Legal’s PowerBI-based matter analytics, which the Repstor software displays in intuitive, customisable dashboards for easy interpretation.

“We can drill down into the volume, spread and type of matters we’re working on, and see what’s happening by region,” Kate explains. “This means we can quickly identify trends, peaks and anomalies in activity, then look more closely at what’s going on. 

“With the data, we can make smarter and more strategic decisions – for example, do we need to target some training, redistribute workloads or reprioritise matters based on what’s genuinely urgent?”
It’s still early days, but once Network Rail’s legal operations have more data under their belt, the scope for making better-informed decisions will grow significantly. 

“One area we’ll be paying close attention to is how we instruct and make use of our panel firms,” Kate says. “By the time current contracts are up for renewal we’ll have at least four years’ data to draw on, which will help us improve the focus of our spending and determine how we package our work.”

High user acceptance
Within just two months of going live with Repstor Custodian for Legal, Network Rail already had 800 open matters being handled through the system. “The uptake has been incredible,” Kate explained. “In fact, when we took the Repstor system offline briefly to update something, queries were quickly raised about where Repstor had gone.  That’s how integral it is already to the way our legal people work.”

As for Repstor as a company, Network Rail’s legal department feels it couldn’t be in better hands. “The people at Repstor are very responsive and very professional. We’re very happy,” Kate concludes. “We went live in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, so we’ve had a lot to cope with, but once the dust settles we look forward to discovering more of the features we’re not fully exploiting yet, including Repstor’s Teams capabilities which look very interesting.”

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