Exchange Chambers dumped as Liverpool City Council slashes spend

Liverpool City Council has slashed its advocacy legal spend by 20 per cent after launching a procurement process that saw Exchange Chambers cut from its roster of advisors.

The local authority, which belongs to the North West Legal Consortium (NWLC), has spent two years trying to put together a chambers panel after having its budget chopped by £91m in the wake of the recession.

Originally it had aimed to create three formal relationships across litigation, childcare and planning and environmental work. However, the local authority ended up with just two panel arrangements, cutting planning and environmental.

Liverpool-based set 7 Harrington Street has picked up the mandate to advise on childcare and litigation work, while Atlantic Chambers has been appointed to the litigation panel.

Also appointed to the childcare panel is St Johns Building, which merged withSheffield’s Paradise Chambers and Liverpool-based India Buildings Chambers in January last year in a move aimed at helping it better target publicly funded work (12 January 2011).

Principal solicitor Roger Mann said the local authority had not wanted to rely on the NWLC for legal advisors when it could make savings by establishing a parallel panel. “We sent an invite to the 25 chambers who sit on the consortium asking them to apply,” Mann explained.

Exchange Chambers found itself out in the cold after more than 25 years advising the local authority. The set saw turnover fall in the last financial year as a result of public sector budget cuts and changes made by the Legal Services Commission (LSC).

Turnover was down by three per cent from £21.95m to £21.3m. Chief executive Tom Handley said: “It’s been a tough year for anyone in the publicly funded arena. The LSC has changed the method of payment and fees that used to be paid between three to four weeks after a case are now taking between three to four months. At one point we were owed £3.5m.”

Handley said chambers’ turnover would have been up by £1.5m without the LSC reforms.