East of England authorities plan counsel fee database in savings drive

Local Government Lawyer - Monday 15th September 2014

A consortium of local authorities in the east of England is to set up a database of practice and fee information for counsel in a bid to secure significant savings on their outlay on barristers.

The database being put together by the East Region Local Authorities will include a number of different panels and cover all types of outsourced legal advisory and advocacy work. It will be open to all chambers to supply their data to any one or more of the panels.

The district council members of the Essex Legal Services Partnership – Brentwood, Castlepoint, Colchester, Harlow, Rochford, Southend, Thurrock, Uttlesford, Tendring, Basildon and Braintree – are taking part in the exercise.

The database will also be made available to all local authorities in the east of England, including those in Norfolk, Suffolk, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire. Other organisations to have expressed interest include London Probation, Lee Valley Regional Park Authority and Central Bedfordshire Council.

Consortium members currently instruct more than 75 sets of chambers, according to Serena Isaacs, practice support manager at Essex Legal Services.

She said: “The whole idea stems from the fact that the districts in Essex were instructing counsel – whether in London, Chelmsford or elsewhere – but did not know whether the prices quoted represented value for money compared to other chambers. It soon became clear there was often significant variation in the fees quoted for barristers of the same year’s call.”

Isaacs said getting the database up and running would be very cost-effective for the authorities. “It just made so much economic sense to get this going and hopefully we will see very competitive rates offered,” she added.

The intention is to go live with the database in February 2011 and for participating authorities to use counsel from those chambers that have had their data included. There is, however, no guarantee of any volume or value of work.

First Law is helping with the scheme.

Barristers or chambers wishing to express interest in inclusion in the database need to apply by 15 November to eac@firstlaw.co.uk .