Eversheds is setting up a dedicated public inquiry practice after being appointed legal adviser for the forthcoming Harold Shipman inquiry.
The Shipman case is the second high-profile inquiry Eversheds has been appointed to. It tendered for and won Lord Saville's Bloody Sunday inquiry in July 1998, and had more than 20 lawyers based in Northern Ireland.
Public inquiry work is handled through the dispute management group. But with the Shipman case coming on top of the Bloody Sunday inquiry, the firm has decided to establish its own unit.
Cardiff-based partner Peter Jones, who leads the Bloody Sunday team, will be responsible for the new department.
Eversheds is launching the practice despite ambitions to increase its City profile. And earlier this month, the national firm announced it was to slice 10 per cent of its equity partners in an attempt to boost profitability (The Lawyer, 15 January).
A senior source at the firm says: “It is very good work, people are interested in it and we can do it because of our resources and location. There is also a growing demand and a growing number of inquiries.”
Yet fee levels for public and government work are often considerably lower than City rates. One lawyer at a rival firm claims that he is regularly sent CVs from assistants working on major inquiries – such work will often take people away from home for long periods of time.
But Jones refutes this, saying that he has had positive feedback from the lawyers who worked on Bloody Sunday and already has volunteers “coming out of his ears” to work on the Shipman case.
Earlier this month, the Government announced that it would establish a “wide-ranging and comprehensive” inquiry into the case of Shipman, the Manchester GP and serial killer who last year was convicted of killing 15 patients.