The race for legal partnerships between commercial law firms and local authorities is hotting up with Nabarro Nathanson's announcement that it has signed a unique deal with a London borough.
Nabarros has signed a partnership agreement to join forces with south London borough Lewisham when pitching for local legal work.
Under the arrangement, Nabarros has agreed not to compete directly against the borough for public sector work in the area.
The firm has pledged to join forces with Lewisham's in-house lawyers on best practice. They will also pool resources by presenting joint tenders for legal work from health, education and housing bodies and for work on urban regeneration projects.
The teams have also pledged to explore secondment possibilities.
Kath Nicholson, head of law at Lewisham, says: "We had worked very closely with Nabarro Nathanson on the establishment of the UK's first PFI catering contract, which was agreed with Compass earlier this year, and it seemed logical to extend the very good working relationship we had developed into something more concrete."
Malcolm Iley, head of Nabarros' public sector group, says: "We wanted to be able to join up with a forward-looking London borough to provide a joint approach on some tenders as well as share expertise where relevant."
Eversheds pioneered agreements with local authority in-house legal teams, but the Nabarros deal appears to go deeper.
Judith Barnes, partner at Eversheds and coincidentally, a former head of law at Lewisham, says the firm's agreement with Lancashire County Council involves brainstorming together. The firm is still exploring secondment, mentoring and training link-ups, says Barnes.
Barnes says that Eversheds hopes to forge further relationships: "We are talking to a number of London boroughs, county councils, unitary authorities and district councils."
She adds: "Eversheds has always had an overt policy of not competing directly with a local authority where they have an in-house legal services provider."