Edinburgh University to appoint first head of legal services

Edinburgh University is to appoint its first head of legal services before the end of the year in a bid to cut its legal budget by 10 per cent.

The new general counsel will report directly to the University Secretary and the University’s governing body, the University Court.

Edinburgh University currently has seven in-house lawyers but hands the majority of its work out to a range of external law firms, though it does not operate a formal panel.

Business manager James MacGeorge said that the recruitment of an in-house lawyer could lead to an official legal panel for the university but said it was looking to bring a larger amount of work in-house.

“Everyone is looking to drive best value across services and if we perceive that we can make an improvement and save some cash by doing it then that’s good,” he said.

“When you have an in-house expert in post they add intrinsic value,” he added.

The organisation’s biggest legal needs are split into employment, construction, property and litigation as well as several other areas.

Applications for the role closed last week and interviews are slated for the end of November, in the hope that a new legal director could take up the role early next year.

The body has had over fifty applications for the job including several from FTSE 250 and FTSE 100 companies.

According to MacGeorge, universities are increasingly on the hunt for general counsel roles to cut their legal spend.

The Edinburgh appointment comes after the University of London’s appointed its first ever general counsel in January 2013, taking the Wellcome Trust’s longstanding general counsel John Stewart as head of legal services  (14 January 2013). But other universities continue to send out their work to external firms, with Dundas & Wilson picking up all of Glasgow University’s external advice.