With an up-front policy against predatory bidding and a commitment to training local authorities in the legalities of CCT, Leeds firm Eversheds Hepworth & Chadwick has secured itself a safe niche in the public sector market.

One of the few practices to pledge not to tender, Eversheds has a growing reputation as the private practice arm of local government.

Last autumn, the firm signed former Leeds City Council lawyer Stephen Cirell as a partner in its public sector unit, and retained his colleague John Bennett as a consultant.

The pair, recognised as the UK's leading experts in CCT, joined the team on the proviso that it would never bid for work against an in-house department.

“Part of our decision to join was the non-predatory bidding policy,” says Cirell. “We saw that very much as a plank in the strategy for developing the practice so that local authorities would not see us as a potential threat to them.

“Since then we've won around 100 local authority clients with work in a variety of different areas. Some of it is just small jobs, where they just want advice, and others are on a much larger scale where we've been retained and are doing virtually the whole of the CCT process for them.”

As a result of its council-friendly approach, the unit, headed by Eversheds managing partner David Ansbro, is a recognised name in public sector law and now acts for more than 10 London and metropolitan boroughs.

The firm offers a variety of services including advice on CCT, public procurement, TUPE, externalisation and ultra vires. Cirell and Bennett have also written guides on blue and white collar CCT.

The eight-member public sector team has also trained between 40 and 50 councils throughout the UK on CCT, and regularly refers work to the practice's commercial department.

“This area of law is fast growing,” says Cirell. “Local authorities can still have legal services in-house, but we're picking up other public sector work which is now ex-local authority.

“We're doing work for grant-maintained schools, colleges of further education and housing action trusts.”