Lambeth and Southwark legal teams consider ABS spin-off

The legal teams at neighbouring London authorities Lambeth and Southwark are considering setting up an ABS vehicle in a bid to cut their legal expenditure.

An ABS spin-off would be set up to look at the “more meaty legal issues” that are currently being sent out to external counsel, estimated to cost each authority around £3m a year.

“We’re chewing over a number of potential options [in reaction] to how legal services may look in future,” Lambeth director of governance and democracy Mark Hynes told The Lawyer. “We hope to get these plans fully fleshed out in the next three to six months.”

The London authorities have already agreed a four-year deal (9 August 2010) that sees them share the cost of instructed counsel. The agreed framework is split into four panels, each made up of between five and 10 sets and covering four specialist areas: planning, property and contracts; housing litigation; children and adults; and general litigation and employment.

The authorities also share a litigation team under the leadership of Southwark’s head of litigation.

Lambeth spends approximately £8m a year on legal services while Southwark spends around £12m a year. Legal advisers for the councils have included Ashfords, Bevan Brittan, Eversheds, Trowers & Hamlins and Wragge & Co.

A wide variety of firms have now been granted ABS licences, from Co-operative Legal Services, which was one of the first licencees (28 March 2012), to the likes of national firm Simpson Millar, which received its licence in February (6 February 2013).