Insight Local Government Lawyer Insight December 2018 13 ‘buy-in’ for the commercial venture and to make sure they accepted the risks in creating a new company which could not absolutely guarantee any set returns on investment. We set up a good governance and decision-making framework for the company which included regular board meetings and monitoring sessions for the Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (COLP) and the Compliance Officer for Finance and Administration (COFA). This not only kept the pace for the project development but it also gave confidence to our senior management. In order to secure SRA approval for First North Law, we had to work closely with the SRA; we established an excellent client relationship contact, who guided and supported us with the ABS application process. Face-to-face meetings reaped benefits and helped with the relationship. We recognised the need to use the right kind of expertise at the right time, whether that be internal services or outside expertise. We worked very closely with our internal systems colleagues in order to put in place the framework and processes to allow First North Law to operate with clear separation from the NYCC systems. The technical steps to this can be challenging, especially in terms of technology, and it was crucial to get internal key players on board early. It was essential to implement a charging structure (at realistic commercial rates) to allow NYCC to charge First North Law for any services rendered (either directly via seconded staff hours or indirectly via support/systems functions) in order to provide an audit trail which would demonstrate that public services were not being inappropriately used and that the public sector is not subsidising the wholly owned company. Setting up First North Law is one of the most challenging but satisfying tasks I have undertaken during a long legal career. The launch of the company and ‘opening the shop door’ was a very exciting moment in recognition for all that we had achieved. Some background The creation of First North Law was developed to support North Yorkshire County Council’s commercial growth and is one of the companies that forms part of the expanding portfolio of services offered to external markets. These commercial ambitions are driven by the council’s determination to protect as well as transform frontline services. North Yorkshire’s trading arm already generates around £95m, contributes £2.2m towards the costs of the council and adds £3.6m profit on top. First North Law, as the name simply suggests, is the first ABS developed from a local authority in the North of England to trade in legal services. I am proud to have set up a company which showcases the skills of a legal team that has an enviable background and reputation in the provision of legal services and in achieving excellent customer satisfaction. We believe First North Law is a law firm with a difference: we take pride in the services we offer and are confident that the company will thrive and achieve a strong customer base in order to achieve our commercial ambitions. Hilary Irving is a Director of First North Law. I was under no illusion that it was going to be easy; I needed to draw on a multitude of skills that I had developed along the way in traditional legal roles. and also from my experience of setting up my own company outside of my legal career.