What is it like to work as an in-house solicitor for a registered provider for social housing or housing association? Radian’s Scott Greenwood sets out the attraction and advantages, how the sector differs from private practice and how the transition can be made by those who may be considering a move.
I work for Radian as their in-house solicitor specialising in housing law. My role incorporates a variety of practice areas in the business including neighbourhood management (housing management), community safety (serious anti-social behaviour or ASB), income management (rent arrears and debt), leasehold management, market rent management and supported housing. My team consists of myself and a very experienced legal secretary who also provides paralegal support. We are supported by an external panel of three firms of solicitors who cover us when the work is at capacity, I am on leave or the legal question or issue arising is not within my specialised area of practice such as commercial leases, leases, contracts and other transactional work. This panel is procured by the business under a legal services contract which lasts for a three to four-year term.
The legal work I undertake is very varied and covers a number of legal disciplines of law which fall under the umbrella of Housing Law. I undertake a lot of litigation work which includes obtaining injunctions for ASB and other tenancy breaches and possession actions. I also provide housing management advice in areas such as succession, assignment, allocations, surrender, abandonment, hoarding and property condition, tenancy fraud, unlawful occupation and other estate management legal issues. I provide advice to my internal client on policies and procedures.
The role is very interesting and rewarding. As a result of the varied caseload, each day brings different challenges and scenarios. The litigation cases differ from case to case on the facts and also involve challenges in developing areas of the law such as human rights, public and equality law. I find the work very intellectually stimulating and it is great to see the beneficial outcome cases can have on people’s lives, for example in ASB cases, seeing the peace and respite our residents and community get when we obtain orders which stop the ASB.
I find that working in-house offers a real work life balance which is not always the case in private practice. Working in-house offers good pay and reward packages which also include the benefit of flexi leave, varied hours outside core hours to suit home life and commitments and agile working. Prior to working for Radian, I spent around ten years working in private practice and before joining Radian they were one of my clients in private practice for around five years.
That is not to say there are not KPIs and expectations as to service delivery, accountability and performance, there are and anyone who may be considering entering an in-house role needs to understand that. The work is not easier than private practice, it is different. In private practice you will have fee-earning targets which includes time recording on the work. In-house one of the objectives may be to save the business money, but also to add value by training and developing colleagues’ knowledge and skills. One of the advantages of working in-house is you are part of the business and you serve one client as opposed to a number of clients. This enables you to provide legal advice and solutions which fit with the overall business objectives whether that be corporate or operational.
I have had the advantage in my 21 years of practice of having worked both in private practice and in-house, having also worked in house for three years for a large local authority, and I found the legal skills of lawyering in my area of law are interchangeable for both areas of practice. In considering a role in-house it is worth noting what legal skills and knowledge you have in private practice and how that may apply to an in-house role.
As a final note, you will need to develop good networking skills when working in-house as you need to maintain, particularly if you work in a small in-house team as I do, good and strong working relationships and networking with other lawyers in other area of practice, including counsel. This is not just to keep your knowledge up to date, but also to stay connected within the legal profession.
Scott Greenwood is in-house solicitor at Radian, which has a portfolio of more than 24,000 units across eight counties and plans to deliver 3,500 new homes by 2023.