This article highlights some of the sterling work done by delegates attending Cipfa-CAS' 10 Series Legal Workshops during November and December. The aim of the afternoon sessions was to ask searching questions for each 4 C's of Best Value with a view to developing a planning toolkit for any lawyer conducting a Service Review of Legal Services.

Some of the key themes emerging from the sessions are reproduced below for each of the 4C's, along with the evidence that may be required to demonstrate the same and the practicalities that will need to be thought through by lawyers before they embark on the road to conducting a Service Review. All delegates are thanked for their valuable contributions and their thought provoking discussions.


Local Authority -

What services are provided by the local authority? Should local authority be doing this? Does the local authority need an in-house Legal Service? What does local authority want from in-house Legal Services? Does it need any legal services? What is the corporate contest?

Clients -

What do our clients do? What do clients want us to do? Are clients prepared to pay? – If so, how much?

Legal Services-

What do we do? Do we carry out a systematic and regular audit? Why do we do it? How do we do it? Should we be doing it? Why are we doing it in this way? Who else can provide the service? What happens if we stop providing the service? Are we the best? If not, who is the best? Can we learn anything from the best? What can we learn from the best? Why are we here?

Service -

What 'added value' is provided by in-house Legal Services? What are the Standards / Quality of in-house Legal Services? Do we have any targets? Do we set any demanding targets? What are the service demands – Now/Future? What are the service priorities? Would a reduced level of service suffice / meet local authority’s needs?

Resources -

What does it cost us? Can we do with fewer resources? Do we invest to improve? Do we have / need partnerships? Skills v Work - Do they match? How do we improve without additional resources? What are the location/overheads/conditions of Service?

Evidence required -

Criteria/reasoning for what we’ve done.

Document results/approach.

Have an audit trail.

Reasons for decisions.

Evidence of outside involvement.

Reporting back process:- link with reports to steering groups/Committee – show satisfaction with methodology. Involvement of elected members on Review Panels.

Consult :-


Who are stakeholders?

Service Units / Management Team / police authority / parish councils / local solicitors re: local land charges / other local authority partners / Court – staff and judiciary / Potential clients / other public bodies, e.g. specialisms / Public (limited consultation) / staff/trade unions / local community / public (local land charges – unlawful conviction) / quango’s

What are we trying to achieve?

How do we consult?

Groups / Forums / Satisfaction survey (samples) / seeking suggestions for improvements / understand what are their requirements / Sample tests

(a) Set context and agenda

(b) Vary method

(c) Select target/themes. Joint Objectives?

(d) Evaluate and feedback on results – what changes will follow?

(e) Generate interest

(f) Start small and build up

(g) Was it effective? If not change it.

(h) Does our consultation fit in with corporate policies/methods/objectives?

(i) How do we capture informal feedback?

When do we consult?

What is the timing and number of reviews?

What do we consult on? Current service or future proposals?

Resources -

Examine existing mechanisms for suitable use and adapt/exploit

Can’t afford it? – Establish what might be possible with extra funds.

Introduce incentives for consultees?

Compete :-

Questions -

  1. How will the service be packaged?
  2. Do you have a Service Specification?
  3. Are you competitive?
  4. Do clients see you as competitive?
  5. What are the compete criteria – cost / quality / productivity / hourly rates ?
  6. Do you have any ‘informal’ partnerships?
  7. Have you have any competitive benchmark information?
  8. Who are your competitors?
  9. Has any part of the service been market tested / put out?
  10. What is the market – locally / nationally?

Useful evidence -

Contracts you win, e.g. bidding for work

Benchmarking reports - independent

Contracts with companies

General -

B.V. is more than a process / not just ticking boxes / cultural shift needed / climate developed for continuous improvement


Compare :-

Questions -

1. What are the Services?

  1. Why are we comparing?
  2. What are we comparing?

· Cost · Hourly rates · Process · Efficiency · Effectiveness

· Quality Systems · quality performance · Performance data / standards

· Top quartile? · Dummy bids · Performance Indicators

4. How will we compare?

- Identify areas you want to compare

- Define aspects of performance to compare

- Look at processes comparing like with like

- National performance indicators for legal services

- Identify suitable comparators

- Identify gaps in performance

5. Who will we compare against? Counsel, Insurance companies, external lawyers

6. What evidence will we need of comparison?

Performance Indicators / users views / Benchmarking / Time recording


Workshop facilitators :

Sandra Moss

Mirza Ahmad

Felix Hetherington

Brendan McCarron