(L-R) Awards host Andrew Ryan; Matt Newman, assistant GC, labour and dispute resolution, Sarah Draper, assistant GC, strategic transactions, Maaike De Bie, GC, Royal Mail Group; Rhiannon Van Ross,  director of strategic projects, Legal Week

Finalists: Northern Trust (highly commended); Bazalgette Tunnel Limited (trading as Tideway); European Bank of Reconstruction and Development; The Board of the Pension Protection Fund; Vodafone UK and Vodafone Group Enterprise.

Royal Mail Group’s in-house team stood out in the legal department innovation category for its efforts to transform the unit from a demand-led advisory function into an agile and strategic business partner. That meant restructuring the legal team and increasing its capacity and capabilities to limit its reliance on external counsel (it made a successful business case to hire 15 new junior lawyers).

In addition, it encouraged business colleagues to make risk-based decisions themselves through training, guides, self-service tools and contract standardisation. The team is also taking a more proactive approach to tackling fraud and recovering debt so it can reduce revenue leakage and help improve the business’s bottom line.

That transformation is already delivering results: the team has recovered more than £2m in compensation that the business had previously written off as unrecoverable, pursued underpayments for services (including £1.3m in just two sites), saved almost half a million pounds through fraud detection and helped the company with a strategic acquisition of a large US parcel handler, all while reducing spend against the department’s budget.

“They have become a real contributor to the business and the team really understands what RMG is driving to achieve,” said Royal Mail CFO Matthew Lester.

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