Janette Wolf lifts the lid on the work of the Government Legal Department, which is to open a regional centre by the end of this year in Leeds
The Government Legal Department (GLD), the Government’s principal legal adviser, is to open a new office in Leeds in late 2017, confirming the importance of the city as the most significant law hub outside London.
The office will be home to its existing Leeds teams, specialists in commercial and employment law who currently work in various offices in the city, and also additional recruits, many of whom will be drawn from the region. Litigation work is also planned, involving further recruitment.
The decision to invest in the city and region is part of GLD’s corporate vision to develop its existing regional presence, and take advantage of the growing market of skilled lawyers in the north.
With more than 2,000 staff based across the UK and abroad, the Government has been keen to expand the GLD out of London for quite some time in order to make the most of the strong skills base in the regions.
Board member Stephen Braviner Roman explains: “When we considered the future way in which GLD would need to work, we saw there was a compelling argument for increasing our investment in the north, and Leeds specifically. The legal sector in Leeds is one of the fastest growing in Britain, and we have an increasing need to deliver legal services to our government clients in the north of the country.
“By bringing all our teams into one building in Leeds, we will be able to provide a more cross-cutting, efficient and effective service, as well as be able to offer more career opportunities for our people. We already have a strong offer for anyone thinking about a career in public law, and this increased regional presence will enhance it.”
The move, led locally by Leeds-based joint head of DWP commercial law Justinia Lewis, will enable GLD to take advantage of a greater pool of professional talent. The legal sector in Leeds has grown faster than any other UK city over the past decade, with ONS statistics showing that the number of legal jobs in Leeds grew 20% between 2010 and 2015, while in London they grew by 5%.
Attracting the best
GLD puts considerable emphasis on attracting the best legal talent.
Its mission statement commits to providing “unrivalled opportunities for interesting, varied, high-quality, challenging work in an environment where individuals are valued and supported to fulfil their potential”. Lawyers have joined GLD Leeds from Magic Circle, city and major regional law firms as well as other parts of the public sector.
One of those lawyers is commercial specialist David Tinkler, who has moved to GLD Leeds after extensive stints at some large firms.
“My background was in banking,” he says. “I started my career in structured finance at Clifford Chance before a move to Walker Morris but moved to GLD for more interesting and rewarding work and a better work/life balance. I have particularly enjoyed the interaction of public law and private law and being involved in projects that will have a real benefit to people.”
GLD expects to be able to attract lawyers such as Tinkler into its ranks and has chosen a new building to match this belief. The current cohort of 34 staff will move into accommodation that can cater for around 90.
“It shows a belief in Leeds as a commercial centre and will give us far better career opportunities. It will also mean we continue to attract high-quality candidates,” says Siobhan O’Reilly a senior employment lawyer who is based in the city.
The teams leading the move include some of GLD’s biggest. The employment group is one of the UK’s largest employment law practices with a number of key specialisms. It deals with both non-contentious and contentious individual employment issues and judicial reviews and has particular expertise in large-scale, multiparty pay and pensions litigation.
One of its niche specialisms is the area of industrial action, advising both in relation to those employed by government departments, such as prison officers, and those who are indirectly funded by them, such as teachers.
GLD’s commercial lawyers handle some of the largest and most complex transactions across government, getting the best deals when buying goods and services for the public sector. GLD already has teams in Leeds working for the Department of Health, Department for Work and Pensions and Ministry of Justice, providing legal advice on vaccines contracts and global health initiatives; new programmes to help those with health problems back into work; the Prison and Court Reform Programmes; and Legal Aid.
Litigation is a key area for development for GLD Leeds.
GLD’s litigation group represents Government in a wide range of public law and private law litigation cases, inquests and public inquiries. Building a team in Leeds will help them provide a more local service to client departments in the north of England. Their aim is to focus initially on private law litigation and inquests on behalf of the Ministry of Justice (HM Prisons and Probation Service).
The litigation involves personal injury, human rights law, misfeasance and wrongful imprisonment cases. It is often high profile involving complex and novel points of law.
As well as GLD, Leeds has a well established Big Six set of firms, who are now being joined by other market-leading firms that are keen to get a foothold in Yorkshire. GLD will soon be adding to this current pool of excellence as it starts to recruit commercial, employment and litigation lawyers.
It’s no wonder then, that Judith Blake, the leader of Leeds City Council, has called Leeds a “world-class centre” for law with firms in the city providing legal services to clients on a national and international scale.
The Government Legal Department – in brief
GLD is the government’s principal legal adviser.
Its core purpose is to help the Government govern well, within the rule of law. It provides legal advice on the development, design and implementation of the Government’s policies and decisions, and also represents the Government in court.
Much of the legislation that GLD lawyers work on will impact upon the community as a whole. They aim to ensure that all the legal implications of a policy have been thought through and that legislation will withstand the scrutiny of both the courts and Parliament.
There are more than 2,000 employees, around 1,600 of whom are either solicitors or barristers. Its people are based in six towns and cities across England and Wales, in Germany and Cyprus.
The head of GLD is the Treasury Solicitor, Jonathan Jones.
You can read more about GLD at www.gov.uk/gld.
Janette Wolf is senior communications manager at the communications team, corporate resources group, at the Government Legal Department
This article first appeared in Issue 148 of Leeds & Yorkshire Lawyer