IN-HOUSE PUBLIC SECTOR TEAM OF THE YEAR

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WINNER: HMRC Solicitor's Office

With tax and tax avoidance making front page news throughout 2012 and into 2013, the work of the Solicitor’s Office of Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) in challenging avoidance schemes has never been more topical or important. In a year when HMRC faced unprecedented scrutiny, its in-house team protected £5bn of revenue through litigation, working effectively with the bar to achieve success in 85 per cent of its cases. “The record does speak for itself,” commented one judge. “This is a smart and intelligent group of lawyers applying themselves in complex situations with a lot of external scrutiny on their behaviour and internal demands for high standards and results.”

Three of HMRC's cases made The Lawyer's top 20 for 2012: Loyalty Management UK, Prudential and the Franked Investment Income Group Litigation Order, while another case, UK Uncut, made The Lawyer's top 20 for 2013. But the office's work isn't just about headlines. It also includes straightforward but essential debt recovery and bankruptcy cases. “In a time when the Government needs all the money it can get it's this work from the HMRC that really shows how lawyers can contribute to society by rounding up and fighting for every bit of tax pound,” said another judge.

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2ND: Transport for London

Transport for London (TfL) is the owner and operator of the largest integrated public transport network in Europe, managing assets in excess of £23bn. The legal team’s work is diverse, technically challenging and novel, particularly so in 2012 when TfL Legal played a pivotal role in advising on the Mayoral elections in May and the Olympic Games shortly after, all the while providing legal support on a daily basis on a series of major projects affecting Londoners’ lives. “What was interesting is that this team worked on the Mayoral elections and contributed legal support to the Olympics –beyond the scope of what I perceived as TFL purview,” praised one judge. “Probably most impressive is that the team took on board user feedback that reshaped the way that they did business and delivered services – private practice firms would be sharp to talk to them about what that involved.”

3RD: Essex Legal Services – Essex County Council

Essex Legal Services (ELS) is a trading unit within the council operating a zero-based budget with an annual turnover in excess of £8m. Last year was exceptional, with the ELS team delivering several prestigious projects including helping Essex become the first local authority to use social impact bonds to finance a project to provide multi-systemic therapy that helps keep at-risk children out of care. ELS was also the only local authority to deliver a brand new Olympic venue, Hadleigh Farm, which hosted the Olympic mountain biking events. ELS lawyers worked with Locog, the Olympic Delivery Authority and The Salvation Army to draft bespoke agreements. ELS is now working with the Cabinet office and HM Treasury to establish an outcomes fund providing guidance on templates and solutions for use across wider central and local government.

Finalists

  • Kent Legal Services
  • London Borough of Brent
  • London Borough of Enfield
  • London Borough of Lambeth