Council legal teams create own practice

Council legal teams create own practice
A group of local authority legal teams are set to split from their authorities in a radical bid to create the UK’s first standalone public sector legal practice.

Lincolnshire ;County Council, Boston Borough Council and the district councils of East Lindsey, North Kesteven, South Holland and West Lindsey are pooling resources to create an 80-lawyer team with the working title of Lincolnshire Shared Legal Service.

Sarah McCombie, interim project director, said: “We’ll compete against public sector legal teams and private practice firms. Where the public sector is using private firms we’ll seek to take that work too.”

The service aims to create income for the councils, tackle recruitment problems and offer superior career prospects for lawyers.

The service will be set up over three years. Stage one sees the authorities pool their legal budgets. The councils had spent around £1.5m on external legal services and hope to reduce that to £350,000 this year.

In stage two, starting in April 2009, members will contribute identical sums despite a rise in lawyer salaries and other costs, which will be self-funded.

Stage three will see upfront funding withdrawn, at which point the service will fund itself. Members are debating whether to make it a limited-liability partnership at that point.