The Government Legal Department (GLD) is the largest provider of legal services across government, working with all the main Whitehall Departments. From roads to rivers, and health to human rights, our work touches on most aspects of public life.
The department has more than 14 client-facing advisory teams who provide legal advice on the development, design and implementation of government policies and decisions, draft secondary legislation and work with Parliamentary Counsel on primary legislation. Our cross-cutting expert service groups for Litigation, Employment and Commercial Law provide specialist legal services to a wide range of government departments and public bodies.
We are a non-ministerial government department with more than 2,300 employees, around 1,800 of whom are solicitors or barristers. The department is based primarily in London but has teams in Bristol, Manchester, and Leeds.
As an organisation our vision is to be trusted by government to provide consistently excellent and value for money services so government departments want to come to us to meet their legal needs, to be known throughout the legal profession for the quality of our legal work, and to be the best employer for our people.
The actions and decisions of government are under increasing scrutiny and challenge. Military action overseas, Brexit, immigration policy, welfare reform, climate change and energy policy are just a few of the issues that generate legal challenges that can hit the headlines. GLD litigation lawyers conduct a wide range of often high profile cases, frequently involving questions of constitutional importance. Our public law litigation practice covers the full range of judicial review challenges in areas such as immigration, planning and national security as well as the Government’s wide ranging reform agenda. We also have a substantial private law practice representing large Government Departments such as the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Defence in personal injury, clinical negligence, misfeasance in public office, false imprisonment, and other claims. Litigation lawyers also provide expert representation in relation to inquests and public inquiries. We regularly litigate through the higher courts to the Supreme Court and offer the opportunity to handle cases at the forefront of the developing law.
Our litigators gain early responsibility for their own caseload within a supportive team environment, working alongside counsel from the Attorney General’s Panels. They also play an important co-ordination role when litigation involves several Government Departments.
Litigation lawyers work closely with policy colleagues and advisory legal colleagues in client Departments to reduce the exposure to litigation risk and to develop realistic contingency plans when the litigation risk materialises.
Government Departments need to draw on the skills of advisory lawyers to bring to life policies for which Ministers are accountable to Parliament and the electorate. The legal issues are often complex, novel and politically sensitive. The legal approach may be scrutinised by Parliament, the media, courts, and other institutions, domestic, European and International projects are often fast moving and the problems brought to lawyers are often both urgent and unpredictable. Our advisory lawyers work closely with policy officials and other professionals in the Department to find legally sound solutions to deliver Ministers’ priorities, even where these change overnight.
Ministers want to reform and improve the area they are responsible for. They are likely to be brimming with ideas about how to change things – more affordable childcare, planning regulations which support the growth agenda, limiting bankers’ bonuses are some recent examples. Advisory lawyers think through all the legal implications of a policy, for instance human rights, EU and International law, equality and data protection issues, as well as core public law principles. They need to anticipate possible legal challenges and provide officials and Ministers with clear legal risk assessments. If a challenge is made they will instruct colleagues from Litigation Group and provide the interface with Departmental officials and Ministers.
Where new primary legislation is required, advisory lawyers work with Parliamentary Counsel on the draft Bill and support policy colleagues and Ministers at all stages of the parliamentary process. EU legislation is another strand of work, where our lawyers may need to advise on negotiations, including the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
Advisory lawyers also implement policy reforms and Acts of Parliament by drafting a huge volume of secondary legislation. To write a new law is a special privilege, requiring both precision of expression and creativity. It is a team effort involving multiple checks, but the drafter will always have a special sense of pride and ownership.
Commercial Law Group
The Commercial Law Group (CLGp) is friendly and welcoming, with a strong culture of collaborating and supporting one another. The most recent Civil Service People Survey results demonstrate, for example, that people feel they can rely upon each other to help when things get difficult, that they are treated fairly at work and that they are proud to work for CLGp and GLD.
There are approximately 180 lawyers in CLGp led by Wendy Hardaker, Commercial Law Director, who previously won the Civil Service Leadership Award. The Group’s individual teams range upwards from seven lawyers and are each supported by our Business Management Team. As well as our teams of lawyers in London, CLGp is expanding its regional centres in Leeds and the North West and South West.
CLGp has eight legal teams which provide commercial legal services across government as well as both a Litigation and Dispute Resolution Team and a Property Hub Centre of Excellence.
Currently, CLGP also has a team covering major elements of Covid related commercial law work, such as contracting for PPE and Testing facilities and services. We expect this to continue until the end of 2020 with the continuance of the Covid Cell being reviewed in November 2020.
The Employment Group acts as a shared service centre for advice and litigation across all government departments and their agencies. The Group covers the full spectrum of employment work ranging from day to a day advice to HR staff to advice on large scale employment policies affecting every civil servant. It deals with employment litigation against the Government from single unfair dismissal cases to multi-party equal pay and pensions cases. It also advises on the employment aspects of large-scale commercial insourcing and outsourcing contracts
Our career Offer
While previous experience or knowledge may be relevant to some vacancies, Government work is likely to involve a rapid learning curve to acquire legal skills and knowledge not required in private practice. Strong intellectual and analytical and leadership skills are important. We will provide support to help you acquire the necessary expertise and have a thriving CPD-accredited in-house training programme.
GLD encourages its people to develop their skills and provides opportunities to move between advisory, litigation, employment and commercial law services during their careers. For Newly Qualified lawyers with under one year’s experience, GLD operates a ‘2+2’ policy, whereby these lawyers are allocated to two, 2 year postings over their first 4 years working with GLD; 2 years in a contentious team (litigation or employment), and a further 2 years in a non-contentious advisory post, or vice-versa. The scheme is intended to help NQs to develop a broader range of skills and stay ‘fresh’ in working on different areas of law and in new environments.
• Learning and development tailored to your role
• An environment with flexible working options
• A culture encouraging inclusion and diversity
• A Civil Service pension
Successful candidates must pass a disclosure and barring security check.
Successful candidates must meet the security requirements before they can be appointed. The level of security needed is security check.
People working with government assets must complete basic personnel security standard checks.
Selection process details
Posts are available across the Government Legal Department (subject to the vacancy position at the conclusion of this campaign) (see Areas of law and our work)
Grade 6 lawyers have important leadership roles across our organisation.
In our Advisory divisions, while not every Grade 6 role will always involve line management, we expect all our Grade 6s to have the skills and motivation to manage junior lawyers and provide strong professional leadership while dealing with complex and high-profile issues and projects.
Grade 6 advisory lawyers can expect to move between teams to different projects and areas of work as their division responds to changing Ministerial priorities, and as managers support them to broaden their advisory skill set.
In our Litigation group, post-holders will line manage up to 5 Grade 7s and /or lead a mini-team of up to 10 people including paralegal and litigation support staff. They will be expected to provide strong professional leadership while holding a caseload of complex and challenging cases. There are a number of posts in both private and public law teams.
In the Employment Group, we expect all our lawyers to be able to advise and litigate across a wide range of employment work, as well as line manage up to 4 Grade 7s. There will also be opportunities for lawyers to provide specialist support and advice to all government departments in connection with a full range of commercial (and non-commercial) transactions which involve insourcing and outsourcing as well as transfers within the public sector where there is no change in employer. And there will be opportunities for lawyers to provide specialist support and advice on industrial relations matters and to run multi party litigation.
Post holders will be expected to demonstrate strong personal legal and strategic analysis, judgement, pro-activity and leadership skills. They also will be expected to make valuable contribution to the wider team, the advisory, commercial, employment and litigation communities in GLD, and the department as a whole through knowledge management, training, projects and other opportunities that demonstrate the GLD Values.
If you apply, please note that your application will be for a generalist qualified senior lawyer role at Grade 6 level at the Government Legal Department. If you have a developed a specialism in a particular area of law (e.g. employment law, trade law, commercial law) then you should reflect that in the CV section of the application form. Those invited to interview may be asked whether they have a preference for advisory, litigation, employment, commercial (or none), however please bear in mind that you will be offered a role in order of merit and not necessarily within your specialism.
Technical – Legal Professional Skills
• Sound understanding of public law, for litigation roles experience of or aptitude for litigation, for employment roles some knowledge of employment law and for commercial roles, significant commercial and contract law experience.
• Reliable legal judgment and appreciation of legal risk.
• The ability to think strategically and creatively, see legal issues in their wider context and advise accordingly. The ability to conduct sound analysis and use secure legal research to produce timely and fit for purpose advice.
• The Ability to communicate advice effectively both in writing and orally.
• Demonstrate an understanding of the role of lawyers in government.
• We need to know how well our requirements and offerings match your aspirations.
• An understanding of the role of lawyers in Government.
• Please outline why you are motivated to join the Government Legal Department and how you feel you might contribute effectively to a role with GLD.
Behaviour - Leadership
• Welcome views and challenges from others, despite any conflicting pressures to ignore or give in to them.
• Stand by, promote or defend own and team’s actions and decisions where needed.
• Seek out shared interests beyond own area of responsibility, understanding the extent of the impact actions have on the organisation.
Behaviour – Communicating and Influencing
• Communicate with others in a clear, honest and enthusiastic way in order to build trust.
• Explain complex issues in a way that is easy to understand.
• Deliver difficult messages with clarity and sensitivity, being persuasive when required.
• Monitor the effectiveness of own and team communications and take action to improve where necessary.
Behaviour – Managing a Quality Service
• Demonstrate positive customer service by understanding the complexity and diversity of customer needs and expectations.
• Make clear, practical and manageable plans for service delivery.
• Proactively manage risks and identify solutions.
• Create regular opportunities for colleagues, stakeholders, delivery partners and customers to help improve the quality of service.
Behaviour – Developing Self and Others
• Prioritise and role-model continuous self-learning and development.
• Identify areas individuals and teams need to develop in order to achieve future objectives.
• Ensure that development opportunities are available for all individuals regardless of their background or desire to achieve promotion.
Minimum eligibility criteria
Applicants should have a minimum of a 2:1 honours degree in their first degree (in any subject). Where an applicant holds an overseas degree qualification this should be equivalent to a 2.1 degree. GLD will consider applicants who do not have a 2.1 degree but only where satisfactory evidence of equivalent high level academic and/or professional achievement can be provided (e.g. via relevant experience and results achieved for the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL)/CPE, Legal Practice Course (LPC), Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC)).
Applicants must be qualified to practise as a Solicitor, Barrister or Chartered Legal Executive in England and Wales (or will be qualified 3 months from application date). You must have completed a training contract/pupillage/qualifying employment, or have been exempted from this by the Law Society, the Bar Council or CILEx. Applicants qualified in a jurisdiction outside England and Wales will be required to undertake the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme within 5 years of appointment, and employment will be conditional upon the successful completion of the QLTS within this time period. GLD offers some partial funding for the QLTS, however applicants should note that there is also a cost to the individual.
Professional entry criteria for Chartered Legal Executives (i.e. Fellows): Chartered Legal Executives are eligible to apply where (i) a Qualifying Law Degree (QLD) is held; or (ii) the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL)/CPE has been completed; or (iii) where exams have been passed (i.e. a score of 50% or above achieved), at CILEx Level 6*, in all of the following seven foundation subjects in law:
1. Contract Law
2. Criminal Law
3. Equity and Trusts Law
4. European Union Law
5. Land Law
6. Public Law
7. Law of Tort
* Note: There are specific requirements relating to academic achievement in the CILEx Level 6 exams where these are being used to demonstrate 2.1 degree equivalence as set out below.
Chartered Legal Executives should note that GLD will be willing to accept an, overall, average score of 65% or above across exams passed in the seven foundation subjects in law (where studied at CILEx Level 6) as demonstrating 2.1 degree equivalence (where a 2.1 degree is not held).
Feedback will only be provided if you attend an interview or assessment.
Open to UK, Commonwealth and European Economic Area (EEA) and certain non EEA nationals. Further information on whether you are able to apply is available here.
Working for the Civil Service
The Civil Service Code sets out the standards of behaviour expected of civil servants.
We recruit by merit on the basis of fair and open competition, as outlined in the Civil Service Commission's recruitment principles.
The Civil Service embraces diversity and promotes equal opportunities. As such, we run a Disability Confident Scheme (DCS) for candidates with disabilities who meet the minimum selection criteria.
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