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North West Leicestershire District Council and Browne Jacobson innovate to save

27 September 2013

North West Leicestershire District Council (NWLDC) has joined forces with law firm Browne Jacobson to respond positively and innovatively to the current financial challenges faced by local government.

With local authorities across the country receiving significantly less funding from Central Government, many council legal services teams have reduced in size and scope. Conversely, NWLDC has developed its Legal Services team, increasing knowledge areas and investing in its lawyers. This approach has built a high quality team and secured efficiency benefits, which in turn are making a significant contribution to the Councils priority of Value for Money.

The results have had an impact way beyond budgetary savings and have produced a model for professional legal services that is setting new standards in local government.

Under the NWLDCs Service Transformation Program, the Legal Services team showed what could be achieved. In reviewing legal service provision to the Council, the team was made leaner and more robust, in 2012-13 generating in income 16 of the teams controllable expenditure.

NWLDC has acknowledged the perception that for junior lawyers a career working in local government might not be as rewarding as working in private practice. They have faced this challenge head on, developing an innovative approach to recruitment, training and professional development by teaming up with Browne Jacobson, for the provision of a joint recruitment and mentoring scheme for a newly qualified solicitor, within the scope of the Councils Best Employee Experience programme.

NWLDC constructed an individual development and training programme designed to shape a solicitor role to fill the gaps in the team and meet the needs of the in house and external clients. In September 2011, newly qualified Solicitor Samuel McGinty joined NWLDC, under the joint guidance of Browne Jacobsons Government and Infrastructure Team and his colleagues at NWLDC. The support from Browne Jacobson enabled Sam to settle in to the role and progress quickly, resulting in a highly competent "home grown solicitor", sensitive to both the political and commercial needs of NWLDC. In his second year with the Council, Sam has been awarded the Leicestershire Law Societys Young Solicitor of the Year Award, achieved a distinction in the highly prestigious Diploma in Local Government Law, ranking 2nd nationally and been elected to the board of Lawyers in Local Government, the representative body for lawyers working in local authorities. All of these have been achieved with the support and guidance of NWLDC and the Legal Services team. As part of the development of the team, the lawyers provide in house and external training to clients and colleagues from other authorities. This aspect of their work is also developing through their work with Browne Jacobson, as the two organisations look to deliver joint training programs on a national level. The team also works closely with the local college, regularly providing work experience placements to their students. They have also taken on a postgraduate student, currently undertaking her LPC at De Montfort University, as an intern.

The team is delivering its vision to provide "an excellent local government legal practice with public sector commitment and expertise" and are now looking forward to the next challenge which it will meet head on.

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