Bringing innovation and new models to the public sector.


The continuing squeeze on public finances is causing public authorities to explore new ways of working, in an effort to make the most of available funding.

Burness Paull is at the forefront of new developments in this field, with a track record in alternative delivery models which is second-to-none.

Increasingly, private sector players are coming to us for legal support, in fine-tuning their bids on major public sector projects – recognising the contribution that we can make in maximising their prospects of success.

Our approach to working in the public sector:

The firm's public sector lawyers work hand in hand with the wider project team - and with due sensitivity to the non-financial considerations which are often of fundamental importance in the context of public sector projects.

Clients value the quality of our project management skills - in helping to ensure that a clear path is set at the outset and that progress is closely monitored.

And, most of all, clients appreciate our total commitment to the job in hand - ensuring that the project is delivered on time, and in a manner that closely aligns with the client’s own objectives and priorities.

Public sector legal track record:

The firm's public sector lawyers are at the cutting edge of emerging developments and new thinking when it comes to alternative delivery models for public services, including:

  • shared services
  • structures for joint delivery of public services
  • culture and leisure trusts, LLPs and other offshoots
  • social enterprises, mutual and cooperative models
  • public / private joint ventures
  • innovation partnerships

We were the first to introduce the limited liability partnership (LLP) model in a local authority context. We also devised the legal framework for Glasgow Life - which set the benchmark for a host of subsequent projects. The team has since been involved in around 25 culture/leisure trusts – acting for the local authority or the offshoot trust at set-up stage, in the context of the transfer of additional facilities/operations, taking services back in-house, and/or winding-up.

As regards public infrastructure, Burness Paull acted for the public sector participants on the first hub initiative project to reach contractual close - the South East Territory hub; and we continue to provide support to hubWest on ongoing projects. Our public sector lawyers advised Scottish Futures Trust in relation to the corporate structure for the Non-Profit Distributing (NPD) model, and in reworking the model for revenue-funded hub projects; and we continue to track the proposals for introduction of a version of the Welsh Mutual Investment Model (MIM) for future revenue-funded projects in Scotland.

City Region Deals

The scale and ambition of the City Region Deals and Growth Deals across Scotland present major opportunities in difficult economic times. Burness Paull assisted in the options appraisals relating to the governance framework for the very first City Region Deal in Scotland, and, since then, has provided external legal support in relation to a number of other City Region and Growth Deals. That has included technical work on state aid issues relating to individual projects, as well as on governance aspects.

Our experience in this highly specialised area means that we are ideally placed to support both public and private sector partners in the context of delivering individual projects emerging from the City Region and Growth Deals.

Innovation Partnerships

We were the first legal firm in Scotland to promote the potential of the new Innovation Partnership procurement model as a means of unlocking innovation in the delivery of public services, public infrastructure, regeneration and housing.

Take-up of this new model has been slow – but we are currently engaged in a project (led by Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Government) to set templates and guidance for use by public authorities right across Scotland; and our expectation is that the Innovation Partnership model will become an increasingly important way for public and private sector partners to work together in developing (and then delivering) new solutions. We are also highly enthusiastic about the potential of the Innovation Partnership model in relation to new approaches for delivery of public services, and particularly where it is used to foster better engagement with third sector service providers.

Legal Innovation

This is a time when innovation has never been so important; and while media comment has tended to focus on the need for public authorities to adopt new ways of working and collaborate more effectively, there are many projects where success can only be achieved if we can also harness the creativity of private sector businesses, the academic sector, and third sector organisations, in a common effort.

Burness Paull has a strong track record in developing specialist corporate and contractual structures for local authorities, regeneration agencies and a wide range of other public sector bodies – with a reputation for innovation that is second to none. This has included ground-breaking work on the structuring of partnership and joint venture arrangements, collaborations on major capital projects, as well as the creation of offshoot trusts and LLPs: and the development of robust legal frameworks for multi-agency working and shared services. We are able to field a multi-disciplinary team to tackle all the legal areas that come into play on these projects – including corporate/contractual matters, property, employment and pensions, IPR and data protection; as well as specialised advice on vires, public procurement and state aids.

Wider offering for public sector clients

In addition to projects focused on public services and public infrastructure, our public sector lawyers are regularly called upon to assist with major property projects, construction disputes and employment issues for public sector clients – as well as providing specialist help on procurement, state aids, and issues of vires (legal capacity).

We see it as our role to supplement – rather than supplant – the work of in-house legal counsel. We work as part of an integrated team, providing additional resource and/or specialist expertise.

“They have good, in-depth knowledge of specialised areas. They are also very personable and understand how our business works."
- Chambers & Partners