Local Government Lawyer puts Simon Aley, head of legal and democratic services at Corby Borough Council, under the spotlight.
1. When and why did you decide to become a lawyer?
It was towards the end of my time at Warwick University – after helping run the University Neighbourhood Law Centre when I started to realise that legal practice was a bit more interesting than legal theory! Although even then I wobbled a bit – see answer to 7 below.
2. Have you always worked in local government?
No, although most of my career has been in local government. I have worked for 11 different councils and at five of those as head of legal. But I had a brief stint in private practice in London first, have worked for a charity supporting volunteers and had my own practice.
3. What has been your proudest moment so far in your local government career?
I guess it has to be Corby becoming the first local authority in the country ever to win a Law Society National Award. We won the LEXCEL Highly Commended Award in 2008.
4. What one piece of legislation affecting local government would you change and why?
Just ONE!! Well I guess it would have to be the Local Government & Housing Act 1989, so that Monitoring Officers had to be legally qualified to solicitor or barrister level. After all I would like to think that a lifeguard can swim when I am in a swimming pool.
5. What major changes do you see to local government legal practice in years to come?
There will continue to be a contraction in the number of legal practices in local government as a result of local government reorganisation and partnership working. This could present a real opportunity for far more comprehensive in-house practices, although the evidence so far does not show this is happening significantly.
6. What advice would you give to lawyers who are just about to start a career in local government?
If you came into law to practice law, then this is the place to be. It isn’t a stepping-stone though – it is a career and the opportunity to develop real expertise while working for the community.
7. If you hadn’t become a lawyer, what would you have done?
After leaving University, I worked in a drug rehab home and seriously considered doing that instead as well as looking to work in housing.
8. If you had to recommend one place/attraction in your authority to visit, where would it be and why?
Until this year I would have said Rockingham Village and Castle with its wonderful elephant yew hedge. However, this year Corby opened the first ever 50m public swimming pool in the East Midlands, so it has to be the new Corby Pool!
9. Yes, Minister or The West Wing?
10. What was the last good book you read?
The Fifth Pillar by David Zeidan