The London borough of Hackney has assembled a panel of barristers, becoming the first local authority in the UK to do so.

As first reported by The Lawyer (31 October 2005), Hackney embarked on the process to save on costs and improve consistency.

The exercise was led by the borough’s principal in charge of procurement and corporate Bob Abbott, who commented: “I think it’s fair to say we’re pretty pleased with the end result. [Hackney] has been trying to bring outside legal bills under greater control and this will help us to do just that.”

Twelve sets of chambers have been appointed to the new panel, which has sub-groups covering planning, property, procurement, employment, education, corporate governance, social services and litigation.

The chosen chambers are 4 Brick Court, Bridewell Chambers, Lamb Building, Hardwicke Building, Henderson Chambers, 13 King’s Bench Walk, 1 Middle Temple Lane Chambers, Outer Temple Chambers, Renaissance Chambers, Tanfield Chambers, Three Raymond Buildings and Tooks Chambers.

More than 700 barristers competed for the work. They were required to demonstrate suitability for particular kinds of work and to sign a service agreement dictating service delivery, billing, dispute resolution and termination.

But Abbott said: “The final choices were price-driven.”

Chambers were ranked according to benchmark prices set by panel review specialist FirstLaw, which organised the first three months of the nine-month exercise. Prices ranged from £100 to £150 for attending conferences to £300-£450 for full-day hearings.

Abbott said Hackney had not confirmed when the panel will be reviewed.

“The panel is fixed now, but not for ever,” he remarked. “It’s rather like a football league.”