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 and 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 the 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.