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National law firm Irwin Mitchell has recruited the chief executive of the Public Trust Office (PTO) as a consultant - amid speculation that the office's work will be farmed out to private practice.
The PTO is an executive agency of the Lord Chancellor's Department that deals with the financial affairs of the mentally incapacitated.
Julia Lomas is the agency's chief executive and is joining the London office of Irwin Mitchell as a consultant with partner status in the firm's court of protection unit.
The Lord Chancellor is understood to be considering the future of the PTO following an independent review of its activities last year. There is a suggestion that some of its work may be transferred to private law firms.
Lomas will do much the same work at Irwin Mitchell as she has been at the PTO.
She says: "Instead of doing receiverships for the mentally incapable in the public sector I will now be doing them in the private sector. The nature of the cases is exactly the same."
This is Lomas' first step into private practice. She has been a lawyer in the public sector for 20 years and was previously borough solicitor and head of legal services for the London Borough of Haringey.
Henry Dyson, a partner at rival firm Leigh Day & Co, says: "In light of the recent report on the PTO, it is highly likely that many solicitors will be looking at what is going to happen to the work the PTO does. Irwin Mitchell's initiative is very interesting in that context."