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What is the Government Legal Service?

We can’t pretend that the Government Legal Service is the same as other legal employers.

Simply put, our work and our philosophy are different.

We think this is a good thing.

Providing a wide range of legal services to Government means that we operate at the cutting edge of law and politics. Regardless of whether we are advising Government Ministers on the legality of proposed policy, creating new legislation or representing the Government in high profile litigation cases, it’s fair to say that our work is unique. The legal solutions we provide pervade almost every aspect of today’s society.

It’s a terrific responsibility. And it’s a responsibility you could share.

About our practice

We have only one client: but that client is the British Government.

Whether the Government is creating new legislation, procuring goods and services, employing people or defending its decisions in court, it needs significant levels of legal advice. To carry out this work, the Government needs its own lawyers who understand its business.

The Government Legal Service (GLS) is the term used to describe approximately 2000 lawyers working in the legal teams of 30 Departments of State, regulatory bodies and other Government organisations. GLS lawyers advise Ministers and officials on their powers and responsibilities, litigate on their behalf and ensure that official decisions comply with the law.

Our lawyers’ work will be determined by the business in which their departments are engaged but will typically involve the widest possible range of public and private law matters. In the course of any given day, the legal questions to be considered by GLS lawyers will typically include everything from the armed forces to zoology and anything in between, including charities, commercial and procurement work, constitutional issues, education, environment, farming, finance, health, human rights, justice, social security, taxation and trade.

The Treasury Solicitor, Jonathan Jones, is, in addition to his role of head of the largest legal department in Government (the Treasury Solicitor's Department), the Head of the Government Legal Service. He is accountable to the Attorney General and Solicitor General (the Law Officers). The Attorney General is the Chief Legal Adviser to the Crown and also holds the separate office of Advocate General for Northern Ireland. The Advocate General for Scotland is the UK Law Officer with specific responsibility for Scots law matters.

About our legal teams

The GLS comprises around 2000 qualified lawyers and legal trainees providing a broad range of legal services to Government Departments, Agencies and other public bodies. These range from large Departments of State, for example the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice, to smaller organisations and regulatory bodies such as the Office of Fair Trading, the Health and Safety Executive and the Charity Commission.

Further information about some of the larger GLS legal teams and their work.

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Because of the specific nature of their work, not all Government lawyers are part of the Government Legal Service. However, we maintain close links with our colleagues in, for example, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel.

The Government Legal Service for Scotland (GLSS) is a professional community of lawyers in Government in Scotland. More information about the GLSS, including traineeships, can be found on the Scottish Government website.


There isn’t a single building housing all 2000 GLS lawyers. Generally speaking, GLS lawyers and trainees are located in the organisations for which they work. This means that they are close to their ‘clients’ - the Ministers or policy officials who rely on their legal advice or require them to represent them in court.

Approximately 90% of GLS lawyers and trainees are based in London. The vast majority work in offices in Westminster, Whitehall and Holborn.

However, there are lawyers working for large departments such as the Department for Work and Pensions / Department of Health, HM Revenue and Customs and the Ministry of Defence who are located in the North West, the Midlands and the South West.

The GLS doesn’t have offices throughout Europe and the rest of the world. However, given that European Union law has a bearing on virtually every aspect of our work, it is vital for the GLS to keep abreast of changes and developments within the EU. And occasionally there are opportunities to spend time working in the European Courts or EU Parliament but these are likely to be short term appointments.


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