Insight Local Government Lawyer Insight December 2018 7 Evans will be working on, according to Binjal. "We will be looking at the gap in the market, particularly in the middle years, to see what we can do." Focusing especially on the 5 years+ qualified sector, LLG wants to build "succession and resilience". Binjal talks of a range of areas of focus - "to build mentoring, secondments and career breaks; to work with the private sector; to have more collaboration". Binjal hopes that the proposals will be ready "by about March 2019". She explains the underlying theme: "I advocate training your own people. So we should continue to offer training contracts. But it's in the middle that there are gaps: people retire and haven't built a succession plan. It's a national issue. We are losing people to the private sector, central government, health and industry - although some do a zig zag, and then come back to local government. But we haven't built a sustainable business model and we need to do that. We need to communicate that to local government chief executives and other stakeholders." A broadening of the mind for recruiters and finance teams will also have to be part of the new approach. It will include people working longer but rarely to 77 (or 89). Speaking personally, Binjal says: "Looking at different flexible models of working is vital. So, for example, I will still carry on working two-to-three days per week until I am about 70. But we have to think about how we use experienced members of an organisation." Coule, who has already clocked up 24 years, probably speaks for many when she says: "I personally have no plans to work until 77!" Exchanges and closer collaboration with the private sector will play a part in LLG thinking. Law firm Browne Jacobson and NWL Legal Focus (the Legal Services Team at North West Leicestershire District Council) launched a partnership on education in 2016. This might stand as a model for the future - although, in this case, not a great deal of joint working is taking place now. But Coule is keen that lawyers from private practice contribute their different perspectives within the public sector. At Sefton, Coule's six-strong senior legal management team was equally split between lawyers who had trained in the private and public sectors. She says: "It's important to have a balance of staff that can bring skills, knowledge and ways of working that are different to your own so that you have a more rounded and professional legal team." And Cottam says she sees a regular flow of lawyers leaving mid-tier firms and the High Street for local government. It might not represent more than one in 20 candidates but it is a recognisable trend. Some are burnt out by stress, some "feel they are like machines" and others say "there isn't enough career progression". Local government salaries may be dwarfed by the £143,000 offered to newly- qualifieds by some firms in the City of London but the City burn-out cases "are no longer just wanting money", she adds. But despite the current challenges, there are some fundamental attractions to working in local government which will still draw candidates. Helen McGrath, policy and communications manager at LLG, lists some of them - "very good equality, flexible working, excellent benefits and much greater sympathy to personal obligations". On work/life balance - an area which used to be better in local government - she gives a qualified opinion: "Fifteen years ago local government lawyers could do 9 to 5. But in 2007 and afterwards there were major changes and cutbacks. And now it's not uncommon for local authority lawyers to be putting in a huge number of hours." The pension is another reason that candidates consider local authorities. The Local Government Pension Scheme is listed as one of the top ten by Moneywise which gives the example of a 40-yer old town planner [who could be a lawyer instead] earning £40,000 and who "can look forward to an annual income of around £29,500 if they retire at age 65". By contrast, the average person retiring in 2018 will receive about a third less - £19,900 a year, according to the Prudential. So if local authority employers could manage to become more flexible and efficient in their hiring and training strategies, they could find that they already have the tools to solve their recruitment challenges. Neasa MacErlean is a freelance journalist Case Study - Sonny Groom If he had chosen another path in life, Sonny Groom would now be starting out his career with over £40,000 of debts. But, having decided not to go to university, the 22-year old believes he has found what is "probably the best way forward" in the law for non- graduates. As a paralegal apprentice, he works in the legal team at the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, spending a fifth of his time on the paralegal distance learning course run by the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives. A year into the two-year course, he has already worked in Housing, Property, Contracts, Adults safeguarding and (now) Children's Safeguarding. He can draft a range of documents including letters of instruction and police protocol requests. He prepares court bundles. He learnt these skills mainly through on-the-job learning, backed up by the study - a module on client care, for instance, which includes client communication. "I've been given more and more responsibility as time has gone on," he says, explaining what he enjoys about his work life. "I'm working for our clients. The days go quite quickly." But four years ago his developing CV was not pointing towards the law. When he left his Dagenham school, he had a triple science BTEC (the equivalent of A levels). After visits to the Job Centre and Job Shop he had his choice of eight different career starts. He chose an apprenticeship route into Business Administration within the legal team at Barking and Dagenham Council. When he completed that he decided to specialise in the legal side, rather than staying within legal admin. Every Monday afternoon - and also for two other two-hour slots each week - he takes his lap top away from his desk to go "somewhere quieter" in order to study. The borough pays the course fees to the Institute." I get the opportunity to do the legal work and then the studying allows me to put it in context." He is particularly looking forward to the chance he will get to work in litigation. If he had to bet on it now, he thinks this is where he would like to end up. "They always seem to be busy with different businesses and diverse cases," he says.