North Yorkshire becomes first council in the North to set up ABS trading arm

North Yorkshire County Council has launched First North Law, becoming the first local authority in the North of England to trade its legal services through an alternative business structure (ABS).

The local authority said the move would give it the ability to trade more widely in a range of specialist legal services to other public sector bodies as well as the private sector.

First North Law will be offering services across a wide range of fields including:

  • education and schools law;
  • adult and children’s social care;
  • employment law;
  • debt recovery;
  • information law;
  • governance;
  • commercial and procurement services;
  • business and environmental services such as advice on minerals and waste planning;
  • highways maintenance and improvement and flooding (the council is the lead flood authority).

The company will also offer training across all of these specialisms.

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“The creation of the company supports the county council’s commercial growth with its expanding portfolio of services offered to external markets including initiatives in education, waste disposal, broadband, information governance and auditing and in property,” North Yorkshire said.

First Law North will be headed by Barry Khan, who is the council’s Assistant Chief Executive for Legal and Democratic Services and Managing Director of the company, and Hilary Irving, Head of Legal (People Services) for the council and director of the company.

Khan said: “We are the first authority in the North to trade in legal services and we believe our expertise in providing high quality legal advice to schools at a competitive price can benefit customers across the country.

“As well as holding the Lexcel accreditation for almost two decades, our legal team has an enviable background and reputation and we pride ourselves in achieving excellent customer satisfaction. The creation of this company will allow us to provide our expertise to schools across the country at a very competitive price.

“We have a long history of working with schools and a significant reputation in the education sector in North Yorkshire, we have dedicated resources targeting the needs of schools and provide a range of flexible packages designed to meet our customers’ requirements.”

The council's legal team will remain employed by North Yorkshire County Council. Team members have signed up to a secondment agreement with First North Law to work for the company, as it was a requirement of the Solicitors Regulatory Authority that there was a direct link between the staff and the company, Irving said.

North Yorkshire’s trading arm The Brierley Group already generates sales of around £95m, contributes £2.2m towards the costs of the council and adds £3.6m profit.

Cllr David Chance, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Legal Services, said: “Our launch of First Law North will only serve to increase our competitive edge. We intend to use the wide-ranging knowledge and expertise built up over many years by our legal team to offer an excellent commercial service for the benefit of both our customers and taxpayers.

“Our development as an ambitious and commercial council that can generate its own income means we can continue to protect the frontline, deliver top quality services into the next decade and make a difference to people’s lives.”

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