Johnson exchanges private for public

Nicole Maley reports

DONNE Mileham & Haddock partner Geoff Johnson has left private practice to return to his local authority roots as assistant solicitor to Chichester District Council.

Johnson, who took up the post last month, was employed from 1990 as a salaried partner with the firm which has a strong reputation for local authority work.

Donne Mileham & Haddock was one of the five firms shortlisted last year by Croydon Council for a u1 million legal services contract.

As part of Chichester's three-member legal team Johnson, who worked as a local government lawyer for 14 years prior to joining private practice, will provide advice and general litigation services in planning and environmental health matters.

Johnson says although the view among the profession has been that public sector legal careers could be damaged by the introduction of compulsory competitive tendering (CCT), he foresees a long future for in-house lawyers.

"I was invited to join Donne Mileham & Haddock in 1990 and I decided to go because I was offered a job which involved planning and general local government work from the private practice perspective," says Johnson.

"I wasn't burning my bridges, I was just seeing what it was like on the other side of the fence.

"Although I was in private practice I was able to carry on working in the same area of law that I had worked in in local government, which was obviously very attractive."

But Johnson says although he found his four years in the private sector "very challenging and enjoyable", he decided to spend the remainder of his career in local government.

"I had to decide whether I wanted to commit myself to private practice or just to treat my years there as a learning experience. It came down to deciding where I wanted to end my career," he says.

"I don't see local government work as under threat. There's going to be a need for in-house legal departments."