The Government Legal Profession (GLP) comprises more than 2,000 lawyers who are employed within a range of departments, agencies and public bodies. They provide a comprehensive range of legal services to the government of the day. All GLP posts are open to both solicitors and barristers.
What’s the role of the GLP lawyer?
There’s a huge amount of legal work generated by the government in all the major areas of law, including as it relates to the private sector (eg, advisory and litigation services), as well as in a wide range of specialisms (eg, European, employment, commercial, social security and tax laws). In addition, the GLP has unique responsibilities, including the following examples.
GLP lawyers advise ministers and policy administrators on the implications of changes to the law, instruct parliamentary counsel on the preparation of bills, provide advice to ministers during debates and draft subordinate legislation as necessary.
Government decisions can be subject to judicial review, and it’s therefore crucial that sound legal advice is on hand at all stages of the policy formulation process.
GLP lawyers handle civil and criminal litigation from personal injury to judicial review, in all courts up to the Supreme Court, sometimes with constitutional implications. They also handle litigation in the European courts.
The GLP is responsible for advising on the implications of EU law as it relates to domestic policy and legislation.
It’s almost impossible to attempt to list or categorise the variety of work that the GLP is involved in. In short, legal teams vary in size from three lawyers in smaller regulatory bodies to around 1,800 in the largest (Government Legal Department). Government departments employ lawyers of varied experience, from trainees to those who are highly experienced. The legal teams are made up of litigators, advisers, drafters and/or specialists.
Why join the GLP?
The GLP differs from private practice quite considerably. The work offers a different perspective and intellectual stimulus. The objective is the public good and GLP lawyers can make a positive contribution to the wellbeing of the country. Its lawyers also have the chance to move jobs every few years. This can mean not only a change of job, but also a change of department and even specialism, which ensures that the lawyers build broad skill sets.
They’re supported in this by an excellent training programme, which draws on the experience of senior government lawyers, as well as academics and other leading figures in particular fields of the law.
The morale and individual wellbeing of its lawyers is important to the GLP and to that end, its legal departments offer flexible working patterns (eg, part-time work and job shares) and family-friendly policies.
To gain an insight into the mental health of the legal profession, read this LCN Says, ‘Mental health: a call to the leaders of the legal profession’.
Generally, trainee solicitors work in four different areas of practice over a two-year period in the department they’re assigned to, thereby gaining a broad view of government legal work. Where necessary, a period of attachment to another department may be arranged.
Pupil barristers divide the pupillage period between a chambers and the government department they’re assigned to; and spend the remainder of the training period within their department. Trainees and pupils are involved in the whole range of work conducted by their department, including high-profile matters, under the supervision of senior colleagues.
GLP lawyers are offered career development, combined with a clear grading structure, and high-quality training, allowing lawyers to progress to higher levels at a pace determined by their own performance. Sustained good performance is rewarded by additional salary increments.
Lawyers also can move between different areas of law and practice within their department or even to other departments, to gain wider experience.
The GLP isn’t currently offering the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) route to qualification for candidates. The GLP will pay for the Legal Practice Course and Bar course fees in full. Information on whether it’ll fund parts or all of the SQE hasn’t been released yet. The Government Legal Department (GLD), which is the largest in-house legal organisation in the UK's GLP, is currently working with the GLP to work out how it'll adopt the SQE. The GLD has said it'll welcome its first cohort of SQE trainees from September 2023. They'll then officially join the GLD in 2025.
You can find out more about how the GLD plans to adopt the SQE in LCN's News.
To find out more about what the GLP can offer you, visit our GLP directory page.