First for public law

ELS is a unique legal service that combines exceptional commercial experience with a mature understanding of the values and ethos of the public sector. Evolving from the in-house legal team of one of the UK’s largest local authorities, we're committed to protecting the public

Over 100 legal professionals. One award-winning team

Our highly experienced professionals work to provide comprehensive legal advice to our clients. We demonstrate that we understand the changing needs of our clients by continually developing our skills, knowledge and experience.

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Paul Turner, Director, Legal and Assurance

Paul Turner

Director, Legal and Assurance

Paul has been Essex County Council’s Monitoring Officer or deputy since 2013. He has overall responsibility for the County Council’s constitution and its formal decision making processes as well as supporting Councillors across the political spectrum. Paul has 25 years’ legal experience across almost all areas of local authority law and prides himself on taking a risk aware approach, ensuring that the decisions taken by the County Council are as safe as possible. Paul deals with complex complaints and is adviser to the Essex Police and Crime Panel on complaints. He has particular experience as senior responsible officer for Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

Katie Bray, Head of Projects

Katie Bray

Head of Legal

Katie will be taking on the Head of Legal role from 1st April 2018.  Katie specialises in major projects and procurement law advising public bodies on all aspects of public procurement, including closing complex and innovative projects including PFI and PPP Projects.  Katie has worked with public bodies at all stages of major projects from the initial stages of the procurement through to advising on operational issues. This has included detailed work with public bodies assisting in scoping requirements at the beginning of the procurement through to competitive dialogue and to achieving financial close. Katie has a strong record in leading on the procurement of major projects and transactions across a broad range of sectors including local government, education, health and social care, highways and outsourcing.  She also advised on the implementation of the Better Care Fund and the integration between health and social care.  

Laura Edwards, Head of Projects

Laura Edwards

Corporate and Commercial Legal Services Manager

Laura specialises in all aspects of commercial law and specifically procurement law and regeneration projects, advising on complex high value projects including PFI, PPP and outsourcing. Laura’s particular expertise is dealing with major complex procurements including competitive dialogue across various sectors including education, highways, information technology, outsourcing and transformation.  Laura has an in-depth practical experience in advising on cutting edge innovative commissioning solutions for the delivery of public services including social enterprises, social impact bonds, pooled funds, joint procurements projects and shared services. Laura also has considerable experience in advising public bodies on construction and regeneration matters as well as trading vehicles, joint ventures and mutuals.

Joanna Gent, Head of Property

Joanna Gent

Property Legal Services Manager

Joanna joined ELS from private practice where she was the Head of the Property Department and a partner in a busy private practice. Joanna has over 12 years of experience in dealing with commercial property matters both in the public sector and private practice. Joanna specialises in all commercial property matters to include landlord & tenant, freehold and leasehold purchase and sales, easements, option and overage agreements. Joanna has a broad range of Commercial Real Estate experience, having acted for developers, landlords and providers of development finance. Joanna has a commercial and practical approach to problem solving and the knowledge and experience to rise to any challenges our clients face with their real estate and secure a successful outcome. Relevant experience: Development Disposals and Acquisitions Easements and Licences Option and Promotion Agreements Landlord and Tenant General Property Advice Commercial Agreements

Amy Lapite, Head of Children and Education

Amy Lapite

Children and Education Legal Services Manager

Amy specialises in childcare and education matters (SENT and SEN tribunals) and has Higher Rights of Audience for civil matters.  She has served as a legal adviser to the Adoption Agency since 2004. Amy joined ELS in 1998 from Manchester City Council. Amy is a member of Essex Family Justice Council. Amy has over 17 years of experience in dealing with Adult and Social Care, Mental Health, Children Law, Safeguarding, Court of Protection, Adoption, Education and Public Law. Amy also has specialist knowledge and experience in handling complex judicial review cases for our clients. Amy’s expertise covers all aspects of regulatory, advisory and litigation matters for public bodies and she also specialises in special education needs, disability tribunal proceedings and school exclusion review hearings. Amy provides practical and targeted advice and support to our clients with their policies, procedures and the development of safe practice within their organisations. Relevant experience: Family Conducts public law cases Advice on judicial review cases Advice on Ombudsman complaints Legal Adviser to the Adoption Agency Advice on Special Education Needs and deals with Tribunal cases Advice on No Recourse to Public FundsAdult Social Care Advice on Ordinary Residence Advice on judicial review Advice on Court of Protection, Receivership, Appointee and Lasting Power of AttorneyEducation Advice to client department on key issues Advice on Ombudsman complaints Advice on judicial reviewsImmigration Advice on unaccompanied asylum seekers on leaving and aftercare Advice to client department on case law in terms of policies (Section 17 and Section 20, Children Act 1989)Mental Health Advice to Adult Social Care on all aspects of Mental Health law 

Jennifer Mellani, Healthcare Specialist Lawyer

Jennifer Mellani

Health and Social Care Legal Services Manager

Jennifer is a specialist Healthcare Lawyer who led on transactions stemming from some of the major reforms in the NHS including: the “Transforming Community Services Agenda”, Personalisation Agenda and Direct Payments, Health and Social Care Act reforms. She also acted in her past in-house role as an advocate for the “Freedom to Speak Up Review”. Jennifer is currently leading on major projects involving local government and healthcare including Better Care Fund Initiative, Health and Social Care Integration Programme, partnerships and joint ventures between local government and NHS organisations, integrated care delivery models and service disaggregation.

Jacqueline Millward, Head of Place

Jacqueline Millward

Highways and Environmental Legal Services Manager

Jacqueline is our Highways and Environmental Legal Services Manager ​and provides advice and support to public bodies in all aspects of highways, rights of way, waste, planning, enforcement actions and prosecutions. She is Law Society accredited Local Government lawyer with almost 30 years of experience. Jacqueline deals with the Commons Registration Authority’s functions including searches, applications for registration and varying of rights.  She provides training and advice to ECC’s Development and Regulation Committee on planning and village green matters Jacqueline also has extensive experience in advising public bodies in respect of judicial review of government policies and planning decisions, including the successful challenge to the Government’s White Paper proposals for Air Transport.  She continues to provide advice of the airport expansion project at Stansted G1. Significant work includes: Road and rail infrastructure development.  Jacqueline is currently working on the delivery of the proposed Beaulieu Park Train Station and its linkage to the existing main line network.  Jacqueline is also advising on issues relating to delivery of the proposed improvements to the A12 and M11 in concert with government agencies, including on compulsory purchase and other land issues. Shell Haven/Thames Gateway.  Jacqueline drafted the original obligations and supported representations to the inquiry on the scheme to deliver additional port capacity to the UK and is involved in the implementation of the planning agreements for the delivery of supporting road improvements for the local highway authorities. Jacqueline is working on a number of local highway authority schemes to deliver links for cyclists and pedestrians as part of the public health and sustainable transport agenda including the legal arrangements to achieve new routes and advice on procedure and consultation issues. Jacqueline is responsible for providing training and advice to Essex County Council’s Development and Regulation Committee on planning and village green matters including the induction of new members and interest issues. Lead Local Flood Authority.  Jacqueline is working the Essex LLFA Board in delivery of flood prevention schemes using her expertise in planning matters to guide delivery. Crouch Harbour Authority.  Jacqueline is appointed clerk to the statutory body Crouch Harbour Authority and advising the members and officers in all aspects of its powers in relation to the control and enhancement of the waterway and their land holding as well as overseeing prosecution actions.

Julie Roberts, Head of Property

Julie Roberts

Property Legal Services Manager

Julie Roberts is our Property Legal Services Manager.  Julie joined Essex County Council in 2001 and has worked in local government since 1989. She specialises in all matters of commercial property law including; freehold disposals incorporating option agreements and overage provisions, freehold purchases, conditional contracts, commercial leases and landlord & tenant matters. Julie acts for both in-house and external clients including the Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex; healthcare bodies; academies; foundation schools; Essex Fire & Rescue Service; Parish Councils and a number of other local authorities and public bodies.  Julie has acted in a large number of property and commercial transactions in relation to the conversion of schools in Essex into academies as well as advising generally on the Academies Act 2010.  Julie has dealt with in excess of 70 academy conversions. Julie has a range of commercial and communication skills required to project manage large and complicated development projects to ensure timely and cost effective delivery of legal services. Examples of some cases and projects Julie has previously completed are : Dealing with the property aspects relating to 18 highways depots in Essex following ECC contracting out the function to a private company. Sale of a historic listed building in Chelmsford used as judges lodgings. Sale at auction of a former secret war bunker in Mistley. Acquisition of a lease of land at Sandon to enable the first park and ride facility in Essex to be built.Relevant experience: Property matters relating to educational premises and the change of school categories to academies, foundation schools or trust schools. Complex multi-million pound property disposals, contributing to Essex County Council's annual capital receipts programme. Property matters relating to commercial projects such as the transformation of highways services in the County and building schools for the future. The development of land for community development purposes. Disposal of green belt land. Applying to the Secretary of State for consent to disposal of land at less than best value. 

Dorothy Simon

Dorothy Simon

Children and Education Legal Services Manager

Dorothy joined Essex County Council in 1995 as a Principal Solicitor to bring the child care in the south east of the county back in-house. She then joined Southend Borough Council in 1998 to form the Social Care & Education Legal Team for the new unitary authority before returning to Essex County Council in 2000 to consolidate the now county wide Children Legal Team. Following this outstanding achievement, Dorothy moved to Hertfordshire County Council in 2004 to become the Assistant Chief Legal Officer and Deputy Monitoring Officer and then went on to join the London Borough of Haringey in 2009 to implement the learning from the Baby Peter Serious Case Reviews as the Assistant Head of Legal (Social Care). Dorothy is currently appointed to a joint post of Children and Education Legal Services Manager in ELS and Group Manager of the Social Care and Education Legal Team in Southend Borough Council. Dorothy has  been a Social Care advocate and an Adoption Agency legal adviser from 1991. She is a legal adviser to the Local Safeguarding Children Board and to the People and Health Scrutiny Committee. Dorothy is currently the Chair of the Law Society’s Children Law Sub-Committee and sits on the NSPCC external expert advisory group on neglect. Dorothy was also the writer for the Independent Management Review in four Serious Case Reviews involving local authority legal services graded by Ofsted as two outstanding and two good. Dorothy’s depth and breadth of specialist knowledge and experience are real assets for our clients in both the health and social care sectors. Relevant experience : Health and Social Care. Judicial review. Coroners’ inquests relating to health and social care. Education law. Child protection and safeguarding. Regulatory and Advisory (all aspects of childcare, education and health). Information Governance (DPA, FOI and confidentiality matters). Corporate Governance. Local Government Ombudsman matters.Memberships of external advisory groups: Law Society’s Children Law Sub-Committee. Lawyers in Local Government Eastern Region Child Care Special Interest Area Group. Lawyers in Local Government Child Care Lawyers’ Group (national group). NSPCC’s neglect external advisory group. Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) neglect critical friends’ reference group. Department for Education expert panel on residential assessments study.

Natasha Taylor, Head of Advocacy

Natasha Taylor

Advocacy Legal Services Manager

Natasha’s experience includes all aspects of criminal law, child protection, environmental, education, mental health, discrimination matters, licensing and public inquiries.  Due to her wealth and depth of experience in the public sector, Natasha has been involved in a number of influential projects, including being invited to advise the European Commission on matters of law and procedure. Natasha provides help and support to a diverse range of clients, adopting a problem solving approach to all key issues. She has been instrumental in devising policies and protocols to further her client’s objectives in the most effective and cost efficient way.  Natasha has Higher Rights of Advocacy in Criminal and Civil Courts.  Natasha advises on the Council Membership Committee of the Law Society and the In-House Solicitor Committee of the Law Society.

Emma Thomas, Head of Employment

Emma Thomas

Employment Legal Services Manager

Emma deals with both contentious and non-contentious employment law matters and provides practical advice on a wide range of issues including all aspects of discrimination law;  bullying and harassment;  redundancies and restructures; equal pay; part time workers; the performance management of employees; managing sickness absence; advising on contracts of employment and staff policies, resolving complex and sensitive employment disputes; settlements and negotiations; and general advisory work.  Emma regularly advises public bodies’ senior officers on highly sensitive and complex employment law matters with governance implications. She has particular expertise in complex Transfer of Undertakings (TUPE) matters including the in-sourcing and outsourcing of contracts; whistleblowing; health and safety at work; grievance and disciplinary matters; and related investigations. Emma regularly presents seminars and training workshops on employment law updates nationally and internationally and can tailor a workshop to the client’s specific requirements. The Employment Team host regular training events and workshops as well as sessions dealing with key changes in legislation.

Carolyn Whaymand, Head of Adult Law and Deputyship

Carolyn Whaymand

Health and Social Care Legal Services Manager

Carolyn has extensive experience in adult social care law, Mental Health and Immigration. Carolyn also specialises in dealing with all aspects of law relating to vulnerable adults including: Human Rights, Honor Based Abuse and Forced Marriages. She is an advocate before the Court of Protection and the Principal Registry of the Family Division as well as the County Courts in respect of Mental Health and Mental Capacity matters.Carolyn also has specialist expertise in the implementation of the Care Act 2014, residential care funding matters and judicial review.

Carolyn Austwick, Practice Manager

Carolyn Austwick

Assistant Practice Manager

Carolyn is responsible for practice management across all legal services at ELS. 

Contact Us

To find out how we can help you and your organisation, please get in touch by phone or email, or visit us at our Chelmsford office.


ELS is the inhouse service of Essex County Council.  Essex Legal Services Limited is the trading vehicle of ELS

For general legal requests and advice on new matters our Duty Advice Service (available to subscribers only) operates between 9.00am and 5.15pm. contact us on : 0333 013 9993.  Or if you want to subscribe please call: 0333 013 2305.


ELS, Seax House, Victoria Road South, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 1QH
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