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DB Cargo UK Senior Legal Counsel, Nicola Kemp

August 3, 2022

DB Cargo UK Senior Legal Counsel, Nicola Kemp trained with DWF, before moving in-house on qualification as a solicitor in 2016. An advocate for moving in-house early in your career, Nicola also served as the In-house Representative on the Leeds Junior Lawyers Division for her first 3 years of qualification. Here she gives some insight into her career choices, the benefits of working in-house and her experience of working at DB Cargo.

Our interview with Nicola is the latest in Florit Legal’s In-house Legal Journeys® series, and coincides with the company having created a brand new role in their Legal and Regulatory Affairs team, here in the UK.

For those not familiar with it, tell us a little more about DB Cargo

DB Cargo (UK) Limited is the largest rail freight company in the UK. Part of Deutsche Bahn AG.

The company offers customers safe, sustainable and innovative rail logistics solutions linking their supply chains to domestic and European markets through our network, service and people excellence. We have 2,200 employees across the UK and move circa 36.7 million tonnes of freight per annum!

What factors made you choose to work there and why is it a good place to work?

In short, three main factors: The people. The work. The brand.

Whilst all are strong positives, it is definitely the people that make it a good place to work! Particularly within the Legal and Regulatory Affairs Department (LaRA).

We have a tight team who are very supportive to one another. The work has also been high quality and varied, and has definitely lived up to what was promised.

How has the organisation helped you to develop?

Through the support of my boss, Rob Allen, Head of LaRA, I have received endless support both in relation to my legal skill set but also in relation to ‘soft skills’.

He’s pushed me to do things I did not necessarily thrive at or enjoy to better my future career prospects.

What factors influenced you to move in-house so early on in your career?

I didn’t enjoy undertaking discrete tasks on matters for clients. I loved the idea of working on contracts from start to finish, and the idea of being involved in meaningful projects for a business that impact on revenue and EBIT. I also enjoyed the diversity of work that was on offer.

Did you meet any resistance when you moved in-house on qualification?  

Not really! I was approached about another job in the firm I trained in. Even though it was a great role in a great team, it was not the discipline I wanted to qualify into.

How have you changed as a lawyer since moving in-house?

I have gained a much wider breadth and depth of experience and knowledge than I could have dreamed possible in a commercial job in a law firm.

What have you enjoyed most?

I’ve enjoyed working on cross departmental cases (large pieces of litigation) and pieces that have impacted and improved the industry (such as, development of an automated system for ordering regulated access to rail freight sites across our large portfolio). Neither of these fall squarely into ‘commercial contracts’, and these are good example of how fantastic and varied the work is.

Why is now a good time to join your department? 

It is a really exciting time to join both our business and our department! We have a lot of exciting work in the pipeline.

It is a challenging market and industry to work in, but the best experience comes from complex and stimulating work. The industry is undergoing quite a shake-up following the Williams-Schapps report, so now is as good a time as any to join a new industry or finesse pre-existing railway and transport expertise.


What originally attracted you to the legal profession and what practical advice would you give to others looking to join it?

I enjoy problem solving in a commercial context. That is the key element of being a commercial solicitor in house that keeps me busy!

If you are looking to be come a lawyer, be prepared to work hard. Even the most able solicitors or barristers get nowhere on ability alone. Nobody gets promoted or makes it to the top jobs purely by luck, nepotism or having their own clients anymore! The world is fairer and the metrics accept diversity but they do not accept a lack of drive and determination.

How is flexibility accommodated by DB Cargo in your in-house lawyer role? 

I work 4 days a week from home, but come in more frequently as required (some meetings are just easier in person).

I live far away from the office and whilst I commute by train (obviously), it suits my lifestyle to immediately be at my ‘home office desk’ when I am ready in the morning and ‘back home’ when I have finished my commitments and met my deadlines for the day.

How do you relax outside work?

Walking my dogs, drinking wine, and eating cheese.

If you could spend an hour with anyone the world of business, politics or entertainment, who would it be and why?  

I love Andrew Neil. His attention to detail is fantastic. I love when he gets going with politicians and catches them in a web of nonsense! He is the best prepared journalist and broadcaster and his preparatory and research skills (no doubt assisted by a strong team around him) are admirable. 

Do you have a guilty pleasure? 


What’s the most enjoyable book you’ve read in the last year?

History of Love, Nicole Krauss

Favourite restaurant? 

The Angel at Hetton. I got engaged there and it is just perfect!

Favourite holiday destination so far?


Paradise. Go slow.

Your default tipple is…?


Top 3 things on your “bucket-list”?

  1. Go to Burgundy.
  2. Go to watch the Ashes down under.
  3. Swim with Whale Sharks again. A magical experience.

What was your first/current car? 

My first was a Toyota Yaris! I like my current car (Merc GLA), it has a computer onboard that parallel parks for me! The dream!

If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you most like to try or do? 

Either become a sommelier or a cheese monger.

What 3 things would you rush to save if your office was on fire?

Laptop, any original documents in the office and my LPC commercial law book. (I never use it any more but it is just a comforter and reminder of studying and hard work paying off!)

Most annoying phrase you’ve heard in the workplace.

‘Can’t I just sign it?’ 


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