Pioneering ABS wants to be “national local government leader”

Carter-Hughes: Geographical location less of a constraint post-Covid

A pioneering alternative business structure (ABS) owned by four councils has declared its intention to become “a national leader for local government law”.

LGSS Law has rebranded as Pathfinder Legal Services as it starts “on a new journey”.

LGSS Law, which described itself as a social enterprise law firm, became an ABS in April 2015, bringing together the joint legal services department of Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire county councils, and merged in Central Bedfordshire council’s legal team a year later.

Following a local government reform, Northamptonshire County Council was split into two new unitary authorities earlier this year – North Northamptonshire Council and West Northamptonshire Council – and both are now shareholders of Pathfinder.

It has 145 lawyers and staff, with headquarters in Huntingdon and offices in Northampton and Shefford in Bedfordshire. Its non-executive chair is Professor Stephen Mayson, a leading observer of the legal market.

LGSS’s most recent accounts, for the year to 31 March 2021, recorded a 14% increase in turnover to £9.7m, with profit after tax jumping from £350,000 to £868,000.

Debbie Carter-Hughes, executive director of Pathfinder Legal Services, wrote in the accounts that this was down to the demand for advice by organisations on the “frontline” of dealing with the pandemic.

“The introduction of remote court hearings and client meetings has seen the firm able to undertake more work in-house and also expand the external clients that it undertakes work for due to geographical location being less of a constraint.

“The firm expects to continue to develop its client base through 2021/22 and further develop its marketing strategy.”

LGSS returned to profit in 2020 after a difficult two years and has also reduced the amount owed to creditors significantly, from £5.1m in 2019 to £1.4m in 2021.

It works with more than 100 public sector and not-for-profit organisations, including local authorities, children’s trusts, clinical commissioning groups, foundation trusts, charities and police and fire services.

Clients can work on a pay-as-you-go basis, through a partnership agreement or even become a shareholder of the company.

Councillor David Shelvey, executive member for corporate resources at Central Bedfordshire Council, said the law firm’s “expertise and level of service has been of critical importance” to the authority.

Councillor Jason Smithers, leader of North Northamptonshire Council, added: “Over the last few years, LGSS Law has gone from strength to strength and it is great that, with the rebrand to Pathfinder Legal Services, we will be able to continue to work with our neighbours, growing on these strengths and being leaders in this field. The work that the firm does is extremely important.”

Councillor Lucy Nethsingha, leader of Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “At a time when we have to ensure that we get the most value for every penny we spend, this partnership has allowed us to receive cost-effective legal advice for the services we provide including childcare, education, property, planning and procurement.”

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