Local authority funding pressures are fuelling a new form of partnership between in-house legal teams and private practice.
Coventry City Council has announced that it is joining EM LawShare, which is believed to be the UK’s largest legal consortium of public bodies.
The consortium’s 100 members include 52 district councils, 20 unitary and metropolitan councils and seven county councils, which have access to legal support from six ‘partner’ firms: Bevan Brittan, Browne Jacobson, Freeths, Geldards, Sharpe Pritchard and Weightmans
Coventry's legal services manager Helen Lynch (pictured) said: ‘The council is driving a huge amount of change in the city, which needs support from its lawyers. We have recently restructured legal services to enhance what we offer, so we are joining EM LawShare at the right time.’
EM LawShare was established in 2006. According to its website, the consortium was five times its original size by the start of its third framework contract in 2014, with 69 members.
It also expanded beyond its original geographical base of the East Midlands and has members in South Yorkshire, the West Midlands and Luton.
EM LawShare head Jayne Francis-Ward, who is also director of corporate resources at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: ‘The public sector is changing rapidly, and authorities need support and training with a wide range of issues, including devolution, integration, new housing models, operating models and commercial partnerships.’
Some of those changes will be discussed in more depth at this year’s Lawyers in Local Government’s weekend school, taking place at the University of Warwick on Friday and Saturday.
Bevan Brittan will be explaining how local authorities can ‘thrive’ on a self-sufficient, self-financing basis in light of the central government revenue support grant being phased out. Geldards will explain how solicitors can avoid ‘sleepless nights’ when reorganising public services.
Lawyers in Local Government past president Philip Thomson will also be hosting roundtable discussions on the future of the local government legal department.