UK gov’t cuts external legal counsel spend by 10%

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The UK government’s spending on external legal counsel fell 10% in the past year, analysis from Thomson Reuters shows.

The study, which looked at spending by 37 of the UK government’s 47 departments, said that spending on outside law firms and lawyers in the 12 months to 31 March was £196.4m, down from £217.2m in 2017/18 and £238.4m in 2016/17.

The decrease can be attributed to continued efforts by the UK government to manage legal services more efficiently, Thomson Reuters said.

Part of the efficiency push is improving in-house legal services available to departments to ultimately cut dependence on outside legal counsel. The analysis pointed out that more than 1,000 lawyers from 24 departments have been integrated into the Government Legal Department (GLD).

“This concentration of expertise from different backgrounds in one place increases the chance that the needs of departments can be more easily met internally,” the analysis said.

However, Brexit could throw a wrench into the efficiency efforts. Depending on the final deal agreed, the divorce could cause more spending on external legal advice in certain areas as the expertise of outside counsel is still needed in dealing with particularly complex legal issues.

Brexit raises several significant legal issues, including what European Union laws to adapt or amend and what new laws to implement. These issues could possibly overwhelm the GLD, it said.