Cambs, Northants combine legal teams

Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire’s county councils are to merge their legal departments from 1 October in what will create a single function with a £3m external legal spend.

As first reported by The Lawyer earlier this year (26 April), the two local authorities have been looking at combining their legal, HR, finance, procurement, audit and operational services for some time.

Penny Osborne, head of corporate governance and monitoring officer at Northants, told The Lawyer that in the current economic climate “you get additional clout by saying, ’we’re going to have a single back office’”.

“I don’t think there’ll be any redundancies,” she ­commented. “There are cost savings, but not in legal. The huge cost savings are in IT, because you have economies of scale rather than thinking, ’we can fire 10 lawyers’.”

Osborne is competing with her counterpart at Cambridgeshire, Quentin Baker, for the role of departmental head. However, the unsuccessful candidate will become the deputy.

“It’s not unusual for legal practices to merge,” said Osborne. “Look at a firm like Shoosmiths, which has offices in several places. We’ll be like a single legal practice with two branch offices. You just have to make more use of IT. The important thing is seeing things cooperatively.”

Baker was unavailable for comment.