An in-house legal team which has dramatically cut its external legal spend by using its own lawyers for litigation has won a prestigious award.
The Fair Work Ombudsman's legal team accepted the NSW Excellence in Government Legal Service Award last night (31 August) at the annual NSW Government Solicitors' conference in Sydney.
FWO chief counsel Janine Webster said the team won the award for its innovative use of in-house lawyers to conduct all civil penalty litigations.
"Earlier this year, the Attorney-General granted our legal team a 12-month approval to use in-house lawyers to run all cases," she said.
"It was an extension of a process which began in 2008 in which we were given approval to use our internal team for court matters involving employee underpayments."
Webster said this resulted in a reduction of external legal spend of around 30 per cent last financial year.
"Based on a blended hourly rate of $150 an hour for our own lawyers, compared to an average rate of $303 an hour for an external lawyer, $418 for a senior associate or $515 for a partner, the Fair Work Ombudsman could cut the cost of these litigations by up to 50 per cent," she said.
"The cost savings have, and will, free up additional resources to conduct more court proceedings."
Webster added that allowing the FWO to run its own litigation matters had helped it to attract and retain talented lawyers.
"Maintaining an in-house practice means that lawyers are able to maintain and build upon their litigation skills and keep them current, which has proven to be very important in the retention of valuable skilled staff," she said.