Key Facts

Depending on where you live, local government consists of at least one or two tiers of authorities. Both tiers will be responsible for local services (responsibility being divided between them). 

  • County Councils

  • District, Borough or City Councils

There is an additional type of regional authority called 'Combined Authorities' where two or more councils collaborate and take collective decisions across council boundaries. 

The services for people and businesses that local authorities are responsible for include social care, schools, housing, planning, waste collection, licensing, business support, registrar services and pest control. 

What do Local Government lawyers do?

The 'core business' of the local authority legal department is to provide corporate and operational legal advice, assistance and support to its employing authority. ​

The services are for the benefit of the community that the authority has been set up to serve. 

In-house legal departments are economic, efficient and effective as they are not setting legal service fees at a profit, they charge services at cost value which means they represent the best solution for local taxpayers. 

Internal local authority lawyers also have the advantage of being integrated into the central constitutional operations of the authority. 

In-house Local Government

There are roughly 4,000 solicitors working in 400 local authorities in England and Wales. ​

The bigger the local authority, the bigger the legal team. 

The legal services tend to be broad and can include legal advice on commercial transactions (such as drafting agreements with contractors), housing, planning, environment and welfare. 

There are around 130 training contracts available in local government and the competition is tough (SRA has a full list of providers). 

If you train at a local authority, you can still move into private practice so your options remain endless!

Working and Training at a Local Authority

written by: Rohini Vekaria 

"Working as an in-house lawyer for a Local Authority ("LA") has allowed me to gain invaluable experience at such an early stage in my career. As a legal assistant for a LA, not only was I given my own cases from the offset but I was also conducting hearings and trials at the magistrates' court on my own. 

During my training contract I had a variety of options for my seats including child social care, contracts, employment, planning and property to name a few. Not only did this widen my knowledge of the legal processes but also the governance element of how a LA runs and makes key decisions. For example, now as a planning lawyer my responsibilities include clearing committee reports and providing advice to the chair of a planning committee meeting. 

Working for a LA has given me such a vast array of experiences and opportunities to develop professionally amongst other legal professionals and has allowed me to be the junior lawyer I am today."

Skills required...

  • proactive attitude

  • commercial awareness

  • ability to work in a team 

  • interest in local government and keeping up to date with developments

  • research

  • adaptable with the ability (and interest) to undertake a variety of legal work

  • working under pressure - lots of conflicting deadlines