A local authority legal department which recently warned that council lawyers are being forced to set up alternative business structures by restrictive rules on in-house practice, has won backing to do just that. Essex Legal Services predicted that it could make an additional surplus of £1.8m by 2020.
Local authority legal departments are being forced to set up alternative business structures by restrictive rules on in-house lawyers, leading to the “privatisation” of public sector legal services, the director of Essex Legal Services has claimed.
Kent County Council, which tendered for a joint venture partner to set up alternative business structure last autumn, has narrowed the list of potential candidates to one, it has emerged. The bidder will make a presentation to Kent’s commissioning advisory board in early September.
A new local authority alternative business structure is targeting the health sector as one of its main growth areas. Its head said that with “no traditional partnership structure or expensive offices, our fees are very, very competitive compared with specialist private sector law firms”.
A barrister portal scheme operated by the North West Legal Consortium, a group of over 30 local authorities, has been condemned as “scandalous” by the Institute of Barristers’ Clerks (IBC).
HB Public Law, the shared legal service set up by Harrow and Barnet Councils, has been granted an alternative business structure licence by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
Local authorities must have a “really clear rationale” before setting up ABSs to generate extra income, a leading public services lawyer has warned. Potential problems included conflicts of interest, confidentiality and indemnity insurance.
HB Public Law, the merged legal teams of the London boroughs of Barnet and Harrow, is to seek an alternative business structure as a defence against outsourcing. Meanwhile, Kent Legal Services, the first council legal team to express ABS ambitions, has its plans on hold.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority is to push ahead with changes to the SRA Handbook that will leave it to in-house lawyers to decide whether the law requires that their legal teams become alternative business structures.
Kent Legal Services – the legal arm of Kent County Council – is planning to launch an alternative business structure in conjunction with regional law firm Geldards, it has emerged.