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The Borough of Lambeth has effectively scrapped its in-house legal team, shedding several staff members and putting around 10 others out to six small practices scattered around the country.
Lambeth councillors voted last year to externalise 85 per cent of the borough’s legal work in an attempt to revamp its image.
Lambeth’s head of legal services Gerard Curran explained: “There was a need to improve the quality of legal work swiftly within the council, and it was felt the private sector could do this best.”
The council has retained a handful of legal staff and recruited others to form a core legal team of 12. Its seven lawyers, four administration staff and one trainee solicitor will deal with committee and strategic work.
Around 10 former employees are moving to external law firms under Tupe regulations. Six will go to Norfolk firm Steele & Co, while another 10 were on temporary contracts which will not be renewed.
Some 60 firms initially tendered for the work, while another 60, including six national firms, are currently tendering for Lambeth’s housing work.
London firm Sharpe Pritchard will take on Lambeth’s planning work, Peter Rickson and Partners in Preston will deal with debt recovery, Harrow firm Trivedy & Verdi will look after education, and Barking solicitors Sternberg Reed Taylor & Gill will handle social services.
Steele & Co will carry out all the borough’s civil litigation, property and contract work. While the practice is opening an office in London specifically for the contract, managing partner Phillip Hyde said much of the work would be undertaken in Norfolk.
“There’s no real reason why you can’t do work outside the region,” he said.
The firms will have five-year contracts with Lambeth with a two-year right of renewal.