Manchester council

Manchester City Council’s solicitor’s office has more than 80 fee-earners, making it one of the largest in the country.

Headed by Susan Orrell, the office employs solicitors, legal executives and a barrister, and provides services across the council on matters ranging from child protection to the development of new city projects.

Staff recently carried out land transactions and provided advice on agreements on the new international concert hall to be opened in the city in 1996.

Council lawyers have also played a large part in Manchester’s Olympic and Commonwealth bid.

Orrell says the authority is a major shareholder in Manchester International Airport, and its lawyers are often involved in issues such as the proposed development of a second runway.

She says private sector barristers and solicitors are also used by the council in cases where rights of advocacy have not been extended to in-house lawyers, or where staff vacancies mean specialist advice and services can not be provided by the department.

Orrell, who joined the council in 1973, describes the work as “varied and interesting”, and says staff are determined to retain the bulk of their work in-house once compulsory competitive tendering is introduced.

“It is a very varied authority to work with. The council often has new initiatives, such as its current one to combat harassment to public and private sector tenants, and we are often asked to help with those initiatives.

“When Manchester’s work goes out there will be a lot of competition from the private sector – I think a wide range of firms are likely to be interested.”

Orrell says the council is discussing which areas of its legal work will be placed on the market to make up the 45 per cent required by the Government, but she says it is likely work on policy and strategic matters will remain in-house.

“I’m hopeful a lot of that work will be won back by the in-house team anyway,” she says. “Staff are determined to win and a lot of them have devoted much time to working for Manchester and they are committed to public service.”