For the third year running, Bevan Brittan has been named among the UK’s best law firms by The Times.

In the newly published The Times 200 Best Law Firm 2021 report, the firm has been commended in four practice areas, up from three last year, with Landlord & Tenant joining Employment, Pensions & Immigration; Administrative & Public Law and Clinical Negligence as standout practices.

In the first of our Times Best Law Firm Spotlight interviews, we focus on Administrative & Public Law with Partner Virginia Cooper.

What has made this such a successful year for your practice?

Over the past 12 months, we have had the opportunity to advise a wide range of clients across different sectors including central and local government, health and higher education on all aspects of public law that affect them.

Many of our clients have been at the forefront of the response to Covid-19. They have therefore needed to keep on top of the constant and evolving changes to the legal frameworks within which they operate; to review and update their own policies whilst acting swiftly to provide an appropriate response, and to ensure any decisions they take regarding the provision of services that they are responsible for are legally robust.

This has made it a hugely challenging but interesting few months and we have had the privilege of supporting many of them in understanding their legal position and adapting in very challenging circumstances.

The volume and variety of public law work we do means we have a dedicated team of true public and administrative law specialists, who are passionate about the subject area and are dealing with public law advice and challenges day-to-day. Because they are experts in their field and will often have advised similar clients on equivalent issues, we can provide advice quickly and cost-effectively to clients. This means we have earned their trust and confidence and will often receive repeat instructions as a result.

What types of projects have you worked on over the last 12 months?

The range of projects on which we have supported clients over the last 12 months has, as always, been extremely varied. 

Some of the work I would like to highlight in various sectors includes:

  • Acting for the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) in relation to a judicial review challenge by Rochdale Borough Council. The Ombudsman had allegedly exceeded his jurisdiction by intending to adjudicate on matters which were subject to the supervisory jurisdiction of the Administrative Court alone. We supported the client from the pre-action stage onwards and permission was refused.
  • Acting for a number of health clients including NHS England, NHS Trusts and CCGs on various policy decisions and judicial review challenges. This has been regarding to cost saving ranging from the implementation of policies preferring certain drugs over others, the funding of homeopathic treatments through to transformation programmes aimed at changing the way health and care services are provided in their area.
  • Advising the FSCS on regulatory matters connected to Self Invested Personal Pension Plans (SIPPS) and the scope of the FSCS statutory jurisdiction and powers, which has quite wide implications for the SIPP sector as a whole.
  • Supporting a number of Higher Education providers over the past few months, in particular with their response to Covid-19 and its impact on their policies and approach to enable the return of students to courses and campus whilst mitigating the risk of complaints. Again, this has provided a whole range of unique challenges.

What do you think are the opportunities and challenges faced by this market over the next 12 months?

I think the fallout from Covid-19 is going to be fascinating in terms of challenges and complaints. Our experience is that they are yet to flow through; the Higher Education sector, for example, hasn’t yet seen the number of complaints that they’re anticipating and instead expect them to arrive in autumn when students may question whether the teaching provision they are receiving is adequate.

Equally, as lockdown measures come into place, I expect that we will be continue to be asked to advise on policies and adapt to the ever-changing regulations over the coming months. We are expecting to see an uptick in the volume of complaints across all sectors whether that’s local government, health, education or financial services; we will look to support our clients as they grapple with these challenges.

At the same time, the impact of Brexit in the New Year will presents its own challenges and opportunities. Clients will again need to understand the implications of any legislative changes and what that means for them in terms of ongoing service provision; we’re already seeing some queries come through along these lines.

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