In ‘The Times Best Law Firms 2022’ report, Bevan Brittan’s Public & Administrative Law practice was commended as a standout area.
We spoke with Public and Administrative Law Team Lead, Partner Virginia Cooper, to find out why this has been such a strong year, how the team has continued to support clients through the pandemic, and what they hope to achieve in 2022.
What has made this a standout year for you and your teams?
We have advised a wide range of clients across central and local government, health, higher education and increasingly within financial services on all aspects of public and administrative law.
They have remained at the forefront of responding to Covid-19 and the consequential societal and economic changes that have affected them in a variety of ways. As well as keeping on top of the changing legal position, expectations around how they perform their public functions has evolved and we have seen and been involved in a number of consultations around legal reform relevant to our clients and the work they do.
This has made for another challenging year in which clients have needed to ensure their policies reflect this shift, and that their decisions remain reasonable and legally robust.
Our dedicated team of public and administrative law specialists has continued to advise on a large volume and variety of public law work across all sectors, regularly sharing cross-sector learning where relevant and briefing clients’ Boards on the changing landscape and the trends we are seeing arising from court cases.
We have seen an increase in the number of judicial review challenges and have had the privilege of supporting clients in resolving them outside court – and where they have proceeded to court in successfully defending them at trial.
Which cases are you most proud of and why?
- Continuing to act as sole legal advisor to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) on a wide range of issues and judicial review challenges. One of which involves two competing challenges to the same decision on the question of function, which could have wide reaching implications for other bodies. We also represented LGSCO in defending a challenge to the way in which the Ombudsman exercises his discretion not to consider certain cases considered to be out of jurisdiction on the basis that alternative legal remedies are available.
- Advising Kent County Council on its widely publicised decision to close its doors to unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) in June this year, the resultant judicial review challenges and its discussions with the Home Office to develop a safe and sustainable mechanism for the fair and safe dispersal of UASC.
- Advising a number of Higher Education institutions on the impact of the pandemic, reviewing and updating their policies and supporting them with effective decision making. This has helped to mitigate the risk and number of student complaints and associated judicial review challenges anticipated following the changes caused by the pandemic.
- Continuing to advise the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) on the scope of its statutory jurisdiction and successfully defending two judicial review challenges at trial: one which is the first decision of any court on how regulated firms must approach assessment of the appropriateness of investments for consumers and the second linked to FSCS approach to claims involving SIPP providers and unregulated firms – which have been the subject of wider litigation now on appeal to the Supreme Court.
- Advising a healthcare regulator on public law considerations relevant to serious incident investigations, including advising on the Maxwellisation process and information law considerations.
- Advising local authorities on the best value duty to consult, arising under section 3 of the Local Government Act 1999, in the context of significant changes to the delivery of services.
What did your teams’ legal advice achieve for your clients over the past 12 months?
Our advice has assisted clients by:
- Clarifying the law and the legality and reasonableness of their approach so they can proceed with confidence in the lawfulness of their decisions.
- Mitigating the risk of complaints and the number that proceed to judicial review.
- Helping them to resolve complaints/cases at an early stage and outside court, saving time and cost.
- Providing them with additional resource and an independent sounding board to understand the legal framework and changing landscape in which they operate in times of uncertainty and a greater shift towards enhanced consumer protection.
Looking ahead, what do you hope to achieve as a team over the next 12 months?
We will continue to support clients on the full range of interesting and important cross-sector public law issues and associated challenges that we have seen over the last year. We will also follow closely the passage of the controversial Judicial Review and Courts Bill through Parliament (it is currently at Committee Stage) and ensure clients understand the change in approach and procedure once implemented.