A positive career move

LEGAL bodies are continuing to recommend local government as a career path to lawyers, despite the current controversy over reorganisation, and the nearing start date for compulsory competitive tendering.

Lawyers across the public and private sectors believe the benefits of a career in local authority still outweigh the disadvantages, with the rights of audience available to council solicitors and the greater level of responsibility placed on lawyers at an early stage.

In a study of local government trends (The Lawyer, 9 August) consultant Alan Fowler found council legal departments have increased staff levels by over 13 per cent during the past 15 years.

Fowler claimed core legal services in most authorities would be relatively untouched by CCT, and employment prospects in the public sector would remain positive.

Dudley Lewis, immediate past chair of the Law Society's Local Government Group and city clerk at Bristol Council, says while changes are taking place in local authority “there is still a large need for an in-house legal service and there is still a career path there”.

“We were concerned at one stage about the removal of the corporate core by too high a percentage going out for competition, but that core element has basically been protected by the remaining 55 per cent,” says Lewis.

However, Lewis says the pending introduction of CCT for white collar services has caused a “greater blurring of the division” between public and private sector lawyers, allowing for greater movement between the two careers.

But the president of the Institute of Legal Executives, Marron Dodds lawyer Phillip Partridge, says legal executives working in local government are concerned about the introduction of CCT.

He says a number of members have already been made redundant, and further cuts could be made as a result of the Local Government review.

“However, our members would recommend working in the legal department of local authorities,” says Partridge.