The country's largest local authority legal consortium, EM LawShare, has named six firms to its new legal panel which takes effect from 1 April 2014.
The six successful firms, described by the consortium as "legal partners", are Bevan Brittan, Browne Jacobson, Freeth Cartwright, Geldards, Sharpe Pritchard and Weightmans. Bevan Brittan, Geldards and Sharpe Pritchard join the EM LawShare panel for the first time, while the remaining three were on its previous five-firm panel, which also included DLA Piper and Anthony Collins.
Since its launch in 2006 by a group of East Midlands local authorities, the consortium has grown to 68 members, which includes housing associations, police and fire authorities and ambulance trusts as well as council legal teams. Membership of the consortium is now open to all public bodies in England, not just those based in the East Midlands region.
The rates negotiated with panel members are fixed for its four-year term and EM LawShare also promised that the new panel would enable greater partnership working between authorities and external legal providers and lead to enhanced added value services and "greater value for money". Additional benefits promised by the consortium include an enhanced free training programme, free legal helplines, emergency out of hours support, access to precedents and a new interactive website to be launched in the near future.
Jayne Francis-Ward, chair of EM LawShare's Management Panel and Corporate Director and Monitoring Officer of Nottinghamshire County Council, said: "We are delighted to announce our new legal partners. We have retained a number of organisations who have been involved in the consortium since its inception, and we now welcome three new partners joining for the first time. Together they provide a fantastic resource which participating authorities can confidently use for their full range of legal needs.
"The relentless financial pressures on the public sector make the benefits of the consortium more important than ever. This is reflected in the growing numbers of public bodies who are joining the EM LawShare arrangements".