Capita cashes in as Treasury Solicitor spends £2.3m on interim lawyers during overhaul

The Treasury Solicitor’s department (TSol) spent £2.3m on outsourcing provider Capita between January and March 2014, figures disclosed to The Lawyer reveal.

The Government’s in-house legal arm, which handles around 36,400 disputes a year, spent £872,000 on temporary legal staff with Capita Resourcing in January, a figure that dropped to £858,000 in February and £596,000 in March. 

Nearly all of the agency staff were ‘grade 7’ lawyers – those with three or more years of post-qualification experience (PQE) – and on a pro rata salary of between £47,557 to £57,018.

Of the 86 temporary lawyers working for TSoL in March 2014, 74 worked in TSoL’s litigation group, of which 52 were dealing with immigration casework. A further eight were advising on employment issues, while three were posted in TSol’s advisory teams.

A spokesperson for TSol said that the merging of Government legal departments had led to an increased demand for temporary staff as they looked to fill 70 vacancies. By October 2014, TSol will have absorbed legal teams for most of Whitehall, expanding its organisation to over 1,700 employees and 1,300 lawyers. 

In the last 12 months, this process has included the transfer of 345 lawyers – including 165 from HMRC’s employment division, the Department for Work & Pensions and the Department of Health. In April, 180 moved over from the Ministry of Justice, Home Office and the Department of Communities & Local Government.

Further mergers are expected in the summer, with TSol likely to swallow another 140 lawyers from the Department for Transport and the Department for Energy and Climate Change.  

A TSol spokesperson said: “We have increased our legal staff as a result of increased demand for our litigation and employment services and the sharing legal services programme which has resulted in a transfer of in-house legal teams to TSol from other Government departments.”

As well as the £2.3m billed on temporary staff during January to March, TSol also spent £2.4m on external legal advisers and other professional services during this period. Public records show that these include a total spend of £549,960 on external legal fees during the month of January, with a bill of £77,665 to Field Fisher Waterhouse and £43,259 to Allen & Overy.

It is not known if Capita Resourcing, the recruitment arm of FTSE 100 giant Capita, will have to rebid for work following the merging of the Government legal departments. It is one of the Government’s four main outsourcing suppliers, most recently winning a lucrative £400m contract to manage the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) estate. 

Outsourcing giants have been running much of Britain since the Thatcherite privatisations of the 1980s. The London Fire Brigade now outsources its 999 calls to Capita, while Serco has contracts involving British prisons, speed cameras, Ofsted, the armed forces, the UK Border Agency, the Docklands Light Railway and even London’s ‘Boris bikes’ scheme.

Capita is now also entering the legal market, after the SRA granted volume outfit Optima Legal Services an ABS licence ahead of its takeover by the UK outsourcer (7 May 2014). The move could see the business on a collision course with cash-strapped local authority legal teams being pushed towards privatisation (24 March 2014).

Figures disclosed to The Lawyer show that the MoD increased its spend on external lawyers to £10m in 2012/13, from £3m a year earlier (6 May 2014). The figures also reveal that total legal spend for the government department rose 12 per cent, from £25m to £28m, during the last year, although that includes expenditure with TSol. 

Treasury Solicitor Jonathan Jones, who replaced Paul Jenkins QC in February, is in charge of TSol. Read our 2012 interview with Jenkins and Jones here.