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Legal departments affected by public sector cuts

Posted by: Laurence Simons 25/01/13

As the public sector continues to undergo a serious austerity facelift, with employees asked to bring in their own mugs in a bid to cut down on procurement costs and many office buildings being replaced by tree-houses, concerns have arisen that in-house legal departments could also see major changes in how they carry out their work.

While this may not result in actual job losses, it is likely that mergers will take place between the teams of different councils in a bid to save a few pennies.

A source told the Lawyer that the spending cuts are likely to change how the role is fulfilled, with teams asked to generate more income in order to boost the coffers of financially insecure organisations.

"The councils will all be facing a series of hard questions - this is a characteristic across the whole public sector," they added.

This has been highlighted at city councils in Bristol, Manchester and Newcastle, all of which have revealed further cuts to their legal departments in their latest budgetary publications.

According to proposals, the legal department at Labour-run Newcastle City Council must find ways of cutting costs by an estimated £50,000 this year, £117,000 next year and £230,000 in 2016.

In addition to telling lawyers they're not allowed to use the printer, the council intends to encourage them to "work more closely" with managerial staff - possibly by making them share a desk.