There are 4,000 local government solicitors and trainees in England and Wales, in over 400 local authorities. Areas of work comprise Commercial / Contracts, Conveyancing / Property, Employment issues, Information Management, Administrative Law and Governance. Also, depending on the type of local authority involved, Litigation / Prosecution, Social Care, Children, Anti-social Behaviour, Consumer Protection, Environmental, Highways and Planning, Transport, Education and Housing etc. Then, outside the pure legal work, there are opportunities for involvment in management, policy, administrative, company secretarial and project work.
Not only a broad spectrum of work, but with everything from rural district councils to city authorities, there is a wide range of arena. The scale of some of the cases can be pretty enormous.
On the basis there is a lot of 'cross-fertilisation' involved in local authority work, liaising with communities, service providers, partnerships with other public and private bodies, at the same time as satisifying regulatory functions, recruiters are looking for strong communication and problem solving credentials. Projects can be challenging and require tact, especially where vulnerable groups and sensitive social policy is concerned. Evidence of a personal commitment to public service and a desire to serve the local community will also help.
It is a sector that is in something of a state of transition, under pressure to modernise and provide ever more productivity under public sector cuts and ever decreasing budgets. There is currently gathering momentum to the concept of consolidating legal teams within a region, i.e. forming alliances which unite lawyers from different local authorities (Barnet & Harrow for example). Some local authorities generate revenue for their council by selling legal services to external clients (e.g. Kent, Essex, Birmingham), others cannot afford the time outside of providing efficient legal services to their own authority. Some Councils are even examining the viability of separating off in-house legal departments as arm's length companies which would also compete for private sector work.
Solicitors in Local Government Limited (SLG) website (see below) contains career advice and advertises vacancies. There is a downloadable brochure produced together with the Law Society.
The Local Government Chronicle is the weekly magazine for local government professionals: http://www.lgcplus.com, and they have a specific jobs area, which includes a legal section, at: http://www.lgcjobs.com. Also see the Lawyers in Local Government website: http://www.lawyersinlocalgovernment.org.uk/.