Kent in-housers seek to cut £3m of legal costs by 2014

The legal team at Kent County Council (KCC) has launched a programme aimed at cutting legal costs by £3m before April 2014.

Geoff Wild
Geoff Wild

The six-pronged programme, dubbed the ’Evolution’ project, is expected to save the council £1m in legal fees by the end of this year and £3m within two years.

The team plans to introduce a training programme and consultation service with the aim of reducing the amount of internal legal work it does, allowing it to increase its focus on external work.

“At the moment we have an 80/20 internal/external split in legal work,” said KCC’s legal chief Geoff Wild. “We want to move that to 60/40. By doing that we not only reduce costs to Kent but also increase our profitability.” 

Overhead costs are expected to drop by £200,000 within the first 12 months of the project, starting with the launch of a new case management system that is expected to significantly reduce the costs of manually processing documents from July this year.

Training is another area where KCC expects to make savings. Having piloted a training scheme for its lawyers last year, the legal team expects to save £50,000 a year by moving its training in-house on a permanent basis.

Lawyers in the middle of their careers, however, might not benefit from the changes, said Wild, adding that a consequence of the changes could be an “hourglass recruitment model” in the future.

“The focus will be on retaining and recruiting the best senior lawyers while attracting bright junior lawyers,” added Wild. “This hourglass model may result in a pinch in the middle.”

The project marks a permanent shift in strategy for the legal team, which is also looking into the prospect of launching an ABS later this year.

“This is far more than a theoretical, salami-slicing exercise or a corporate comb-over,” said Wild of the overall project.

The six strands of the project are:

– Challenging overheads and actively reducing them

– Introducing technology to improve performance and reduce cost

– Critically examining our relationship with KCC and how we can help colleagues to reduce legal risk and cost

– Looking at the appropriate vehicles for the provision of our services, including the exploration of Alternative Business Structures

– Ensuring that legal services meets KCC’s needs now and is prepared to meet those of the future

– Embracing and delivering new and different ways of working