Local Government Lawyer Insight December 2018 LocalGovernmentLawyer 6 pioneering local government "disrupters" are "a year or two" away from transition. Corsie is the Chief Operating Officer at Iken, the case and matter management IT specialist. The first step towards exploiting AI usually comes through accessing the Cloud. But Corsie says: "Cloud has been a lot slower to take off in local government than we had anticipated. Very few local authorities have transitioned their entire IT estate into a Cloud platform." Not even a quarter (22%) of local authorities are "actively moving" applications or infrastructures to the Cloud, according to research used by Iken. In the meantime, local government is particularly focused on the recruitment of chartered legal executives and paralegals. "Local government is becoming more open-minded about recruiting people from different backgrounds," says Cottam. And Binjal says: "There is a reduced demand for trainee solicitors but we are meeting the demand with paralegals - and that reduces the cost." About 40 local authorities are using apprenticeships to train paralegals and chartered legal executives through the CILEx Law School. It is difficult to predict precisely how these numbers might change since both CILEx and the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority) are reviewing their professional qualifications. Nonetheless, paralegal apprenticeships are becoming better understood while chartered legal executive apprenticeships, which only started in September 2017, have attracted the interest of several authorities. Of the 40 authorities now working with the CILEx Law School, eight are city authorities, 27 are boroughs, four are counties and there is one shared services venture. Inge explains some of the attractions for these employers: "Local authorities like paralegals because they can use a fixed term contract for two years. It should be the intention of the authority to keep the person on after but it is not mandatory…. Local government employers are often unaware that they can use the 'Apprenticeship Levy' [using 0.5% tax relief on pay bills over £3m] to pay training fees for existing employees through an apprenticeship. That will help them meet the government's target of at least 2.3% of the workforce in public sector bodies being apprentices by 2020." Looking at the more practical issues of employing a trainee paralegal, Inge says: "Getting an apprentice adds firepower to a local authority's legal team. But when someone starts off they do require a lot of supervision. You have the dis-benefit of training them for the first few months. But our research suggests that after nine to 12 months they work much more independently." He acknowledges that the difficulty for councils now is "finding the salary" for these trainees but he is confident that numbers will expand. He expects that more local authorities will follow the example of the leaders when they see the results. He says: "Some authorities are very far-sighted and quick to adapt the apprenticeship scheme into their workplace plans." LLG has its own initiatives in the planning. Agreed in the first half of 2018 by discussions at board level, the development of a "new suite of tools" will be one of the main projects that LLG's new (and first) chief executive Deborah Shamsher Zada Shamsher Zada is used to hearing the idea expressed that "local government lawyers might be frowned upon". Just two years out of training, he organises training and networking events for Junior Professionals nationally as part of his role at Lawyers in Local Government. "A question is almost always asked at each event," he says. "There is something of an ethos expressed that you're not as good as a City lawyer." But the 28-year old clearly does not agree. Doing his training contract at Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council in the West Midlands meant that he could stay near his family home. "It was more practical for me, and cheaper and meant that I could save," he said. And, yes, he is aware that newly- qualifieds in the most competitive US firms in London earn over £140,000 while a NQ in local government earns nearer £30,000 - £35,000. "In London, especially with the cost of living, you'd be expecting to earn more. And even when you take out the higher travel and accommodation costs, there would still be a differential." In local government, there are several very attractive benefits which compensate, he says - the pension, flexible working (in which you can take days off by building up overtime) and holidays (25 days a year for him now, but with the prospect of rising to 34 in the years to come). But what really interests him is the variety of work in the town halls. "I didn't want to be a lawyer working in just one area," he says, pointing out how often that happens in private practice. "As a trainee in local government, the variety of work is so wide - and I wanted knowledge of lots of areas." In his two years at Sandwell, he worked in litigation (including prosecutions), regulatory, employment, contract & procurement, property and - to his great pleasure - governance. Because he enjoyed governance so much, a new area for him, he studied to gain accreditation in it. He is now working as a Solicitor at the City of Wolverhampton. Many trainees move on after qualifying, he says - partly because budget cuts might not mean there is money to employ them at that stage. But it is also easier in many cases, he adds, to be seen as a qualified solicitor - rather than as an ex-trainee - in a new environment. Talking about life before and after qualifying, he says: "As a local government lawyer, you work on certain projects and then you see them in action. You see how people and the community benefit from them. It's very rewarding." He particularly enjoys contract and procurement and governance but would also be happy if in future he ended up working in other areas instead. And he thinks that future trainees might be given more attractive financial terms. he says. "Local authorities are becoming more commercial. If they want to attract the right talent, they might offer an attractive salary."