LEWISHAM Borough Council has appointed former Kirklees solicitor Judith Barnes as head of legal services.
Barnes has been brought to London from her position as assistant head to fill the post which was empty for more than two years.
Hired to lead the Direct Service Organisation (DSO) in future bidding against the private sector, Barnes controls a staff of 32 fee-earners and 13 support workers.
In preparation for compulsory competitive tendering (CCT), to be introduced in April 1996, the council is currently working on restructuring the department, "with a view to improving efficiency and effectiveness for the future".
"There is still a lot to be done in terms of preparation for CCT. But we've set a lot of things in motion which means we should be well-prepared to call for expressions of interest by next April," she says.
"We're looking at issues like unit costing for different types of legal work and improving the use of technology in legal proceedings."
Earlier this year the council split its legal work in two with most staff being employed by the DSO under the auspices of finance and support services. Two solicitors remain as legal advisers to the council and also perform the client function of CCT.
Barnes says the opportunity to drive Lewisham through the rocky road posed by CCT is "challenging and exciting", and she believes much of the work placed on the open market will be won back by the DSO.
"This job provided an opportunity which doesn't come too often. I'd been with Kirklees for seven years and it was time for a change," says Barnes.
"I think there's a tremendous future for local authority lawyers and in-house legal teams. They're the most experienced and best-placed to successfully compete for local authority work in the future."