Plan for shared legal service for UK higher education gains ground

A new national shared legal service is to be developed for the UK's higher education sector, it has emerged.

The HE Shared Legal initiative, which has received funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England for an initial two-year start-up period, will be managed by JISC Legal at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.

The aim is for the service to be self-sustaining within three to five years once institutions identify savings.

HE Shared Legal has been set up to improve the obtaining of legal advice by institutions by offering a triage system to:

  • identify and assist where possible on basic questions;
  • help institutions frame their requirements for legal advice;
  • assist in the institutions’ use of a panel of legal firms to obtain specialist advice; and
  • through these activities, develop and maintain a body of general legal guidance “in order to reduce institutions’ automatic recourse to traditional legal advice”.

The service will not provide legal representation or involvement in litigation and other dispute resolution procedures.

HE Shared Legal will start off with a pilot group of institutions. However, it is expected that “if successful, the service will grow to cover other HE institutions, and possibly be extended to the further education and skills sectors”.

Preparation for the launch of the service has identified a number of key areas of law that are particularly relevant to the HE sector: employment law; charity law; commercial agreements; corporate and governance legal issues; property law; banking and financial services law; environmental law; tax and insurance law; and pensions legal issues.

JISC Legal was set up in 2000 to assist the higher education sector with ICT legal matters.

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