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In the ever-evolving landscape of governance, the legal public sector has undergone significant transformations over the years, in response to societal, technological and legislative change, many of which have been guided by the expertise and contributions of the professionals within.
Today, the public sector offers legal professionals a pivotal role that extends beyond courtrooms, weaving through to policymaking, regulation, and compliance, ensuring that the actions of government bodies align with the principles of legality and equity.
Someone who has experienced the dynamic and multifaceted nature of the legal public sector for over three decades is Vicki Shaw, who joined Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council (MBC) in 1989 as a Trainee Solicitor, undertaking rotations in conveyancing, litigation, common law, and planning. After completing her training contract Vicki stayed with Wirral MBC, eventually specialising in Childcare Law.
Now, 34 years later, Vicki’s career has seen her rise through the ranks to her current role as Head of Legal Services and Deputy Monitoring Officer.
Natalie Atherall recently sat down with Vicki to delve into her journey, providing a unique perspective that not only reflects her dedication but also highlights the opportunities Wirral MBC offers.
A: I really enjoy the variety of work that you get in local government; it is really interesting and innovative in some respects – there is never a dull moment. I really like that the Legal team has a direct impact on the local community, whether that is protecting our most vulnerable citizens or planning the next regeneration project, of course, with that comes a lot of responsibility.
It is also the people I work with, my colleagues are lovely, they are genuinely nice people to work with and we always try to have a bit of fun along the way.
I joined Wirral MBC 34 years ago as a Trainee Solicitor and can honestly say that the support and guidance I have been given along the way has been vital in my progression. Professional development is something that we are extremely passionate about, I’ve seen first-hand the impact that this level of direction, teaching and leadership can have, and the benefits really are endless.
A: While the public sector might not always be the obvious choice, I came to Wirral MBC directly from the College of Law as I was drawn to giving back to the community I grew up in; I was brought up and educated on the Wirral.
I felt that the values of the Council and working in the public sector, aligned with my personal values, as well as being rewarding and interesting work.
On top of this, my father worked within the public sector and so I was probably influenced a little by him.
A: Yes, there are lots of plans for regeneration across the Borough, from Birkenhead Commercial District, New Ferry and Left Bank area, under our 2040 Framework, a 20-year plan which focuses on transformational regeneration of Birkenhead.
We are also due to move into our brand-new office in Birkenhead Commercial District, in Spring 2024. The office has been purpose-built off the back of incredibly ambitious plans with inclusive facilities to encourage collaboration, focus areas, informal meeting spaces, accessible kitchens and much more.
The new buildings have been constructed to BREEAM standards, the world’s first and foremost sustainability standard and rating system for the built environment. As a result, there are numerous environmental benefits including a 15% reduction in energy costs, 11% reduction in operating costs, and 13% reduction in emissions, directly supporting the council’s Environment and Climate Emergency Policy to become carbon neutral by 2030.
On the safeguarding side of things, we are proud of the innovative work from our Children’s Services. We really push to be a part of pioneering pilots that encourage new and better ways of working. Something we are working on at the moment is reducing the delays in public law proceedings by liaising with key stakeholders. As always, this is all with the wider community in mind - working to benefit the lives of those living on the Wirral.
A: I’d really encourage people to consider the public sector, it can be a challenge there’s no doubt about that, but this is absolutely outweighed by it’s rewarding nature and the feeling of giving back to the community that surrounds you.
I would encourage people to understand the context behind the operations and governance of a local authority, and have some awareness of the local political stances, as well as how these might fit into the constraints of a functioning local authority.
Local authorities can offer an excellent starting point, too – there is so much to do and learn. I would also advise to not specialise in a discipline too soon and to take every opportunity to broaden your experience as much as possible. Local authorities produce extremely well-rounded legal professionals.
Sellick Partnership is currently working in collaboration with Wirral MBC on a number of exciting roles as part of the latest recruitment campaign. If you would like to discuss any opportunities that are available or want to find out more, please reach out to Natalie Atherall on the details below:
Phone: 0161 834 1642