Legal services consultancy

Background

We use the term legal services consultancy to cover all aspects of the relationship between HEIs and their external legal services providers, ie the private law firms and, on occasion, barristers that provide professional legal advice to individual clients.  This activity includes:

  • Selection, ie identifying the most suitable firm or lawyer for the particular task, or range of potential tasks, in hand.
  • Engagement – regardless of the nature and scale of the work involved, the process of appointing an external law firm can involve a significant volume of documentation: engagement letter, scope of work and standard terms of business.
  • Instruction – savings and other efficiencies can be achieved through the careful scoping and presentation of the work proposed – also, where the work has been the subject of an enquiry to the service, we are generally willing to make our guidance available, as a starting point, to the external lawyers to whom the work is awarded.

We can also fulfil an ongoing role in order to review the progress of the work and, if required, intermediate in the case of any service or other issues between the institution and its external lawyers.

This element of the service accounts for a small, but important, portion of our caseload, and has been included within the subscription fee since the inception of HE Shared Legal.  In order to broaden the operation, our legal services consultancy is now available to HEIs that are not subscribers.  In such cases – and in the event of any major assignments for subscriber institutions – the work will be charged on the basis of a daily rate, following the adjustment of a suitable specification.

Experience

Each member of the HE Shared Legal team of lawyers has several years’ experience of working in private legal practice, including, between them, in-depth experience in the following broad areas of practice:

  • Corporate
  • Commercial
  • Banking
  • Litigation
  • Employment
  • Commercial property

Insight

Having worked as a principal in private practice for more than 30 years, Neil Hunter has a wide knowledge of the legal services market in general and of the relevant law firms – having transacted with many of them – and an understanding of the manner in which they operate.  Specific issues to be considered include:

  • Basis of appointment – one off, ongoing, sole, shared, specialist or general work
  • Fee rates generally
  • Basis of charging, eg hourly, day rate, retainer, fixed, capped, contingency
  • Specialist knowledge and experience, including HE sector
  • Appropriate level of seniority/supervision
  • Responsiveness/user-friendliness

Framework agreements

HE Shared Legal assisted LUPC and NEUPC, on a voluntary basis, in the process of establishing the national legal services framework agreements for England and Wales in 2017.  We had also been involved similarly in aspects of the predecessor arrangements promoted by APUC.  Coupled with its experience of the practical operation of these arrangements, the service has acquired a good knowledge of the relevant contractual considerations and requirements.

Ad hoc arrangements

In other cases, we have worked with institutions seeking to identify an external adviser for a particular task on an ad hoc basis, perhaps where a degree of urgency applies.  In this regard, we have developed a methodology that allows us swiftly to identify the relevant firms and assess their qualifications for the task proposed.

Procurement and procurement law

As a result of this activity, and the various procurement-related enquiries of a general nature that we attend to, we have developed a good understanding of legal services procurement from a practical and legal perspective.

Other relevant work

In addition to the foregoing, our consultancy service covers the following activity:

  • Support in relation to in-house legal resources
  • Case/transaction planning
  • Management of joint assignments

Where appropriate, we can also provide a general ‘trouble shooting’ service, for matters that do not fit within these broad categories.

Benefits

We believe that our involvement in relation to external legal services can bring a number of benefits, including the following:

  • Lower legal fee rates
  • Alternative charging structures
  • Reduction in external work scope
  • Careful targeting of work
  • Efficient selection and engagement process

Please contact Neil Hunter on 0845 108 4484 or neil.hunter@hesharedlegal.ac.uk, if you would like to discuss any of the foregoing, without commitment.