Another local authority has taken the leap into selling legal services through an alternative business structure. Warwickshire Legal Services Trading Ltd has been granted approval to operate from the Solicitors Regulation Authority and began offering legal services at the start of this month.
The venture aims to increase legal services provision for a wider range of public sector clients, using the 90-strong legal services staff employed by Warwickshire County Council.
The business is wholly owned by the county council, and is expected to move into the education, health, housing and the emergency services sectors, as well as corporate, commercial, housing and employment work.
Sarah Duxbury (pictured), the council’s head of law and governance, said the new development is exciting for those involved as the business seeks to grow.
‘Our passion is for supporting public sector bodies to deliver their objectives by providing pragmatic and solution-focused legal advice,’ she added. ‘Our track record in the legal field, couple with our dedicated team of skilled and motivated lawyers, provide the perfect platform for us to launch the new company and start delivering our ambitions to grow our business and expand our public sector customer base.’
According to the council’s accounts for 2016/17, the legal services department had a turnover of £4.7m, with a net loss of £200,000. The county itself has a population of more than 550,000.
It is almost three years since the first local authority was granted an ABS licence, with a collaboration between Buckinghamshire County Council and Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority.
Since then, a number of different business models have appeared, including a merger of legal teams at Harrow and Barnet councils in London, a group of local authorities in Norfolk and the perhaps best-known so far, the creation of a new legal services business by Kent County Council.