Lessons from the public sector for private firms

28 Mar 2014

A recent focus by The Lawyer on public sector lawyers revealed some of the interesting tactics and business decisions being made in that sector, as in-house individuals and their councils adapt to the changing industry. Whilst the operating models are obviously very different to private firms, there is still much that can be taken from how the public sector is reacting to recent changes, which may help private firms and their own business decisions.

Mergers can save money and create opportunity

There are now 17 local councils who have merged their legal facilities, according to the numbers quoted by The Lawyer. These mergers have provided the public sector with the cost savings they must find, but have also opened up the new expert team to opportunities it could not previously pursue. Consulting with external experts on the merger has also opened up the possibility for new areas of growth.

Opportunity can come from new options, such as ABS

One such example provided in the previous category comes from Harrow and Barnet councils, who recently applied for an Alternate Business Structures (ABS) licence, in order to enter into a partnership with Bevan Brittan. This demonstrates how outside help for firms can open up new opportunities and how new business structures can similarly allow firms to market themselves in different ways.

In order to make huge savings, the public sector are considering progressive areas traditional law still seems reluctant to

Kent’s legal department are provided as an example of this in The Lawyer’s research, as they investigate increasing the use of technology and self-service in the work they do. This decreases the amount of work passed to junior lawyers, whilst making the client experience faster. For traditional law firms who need to make similar savings, considering this sort of progressive approach could help a significant amount.

Cutting new hires is not always the way to make more savings, or to be a better firm

Whilst many legal firms review their trainee programs, a handful of councils are reviewing and amending theirs. One council, for example, has identified a gap in the market for childcare specialists and is therefore recruiting trainees to fill a market gap it may be able to outsource to other councils later. As new products and areas of law develop, the private sector could benefit from similar targeted drives, rather than cutting trainee schemes altogether.