Sadness, pride, and complex judgements: GLD boss Susanna McGibbon looks back on 2022

The Government Legal Department permanent secretary reflects on a challenging year – and the unglamorous tasks of Christmases past
McGibbon was proud to represent GLD at the Queen's funeral. Photo: Stephen Foote/Alamy Stock Photo

By Civil Service World

14 Dec 2022


What has been your highlight of the last 12 months?  

A poignant highlight, although extremely sad, was witnessing the London Bridge operation unfold across government. Seeing colleagues across the public sector working together to deliver a programme of events whilst the nation was watching, made me very proud to be a part of such an incredible organisation. This was especially true at Her Majesty’s funeral, at which I had the privilege of representing GLD and seeing first-hand the perfect celebration of the life of our much-loved monarch. It was a great example of what can be achieved when our civil service steps up and shows the world what we can do.  

What was your most difficult decision in 2022?   

Whilst not a single decision, the complexity of some of the legal judgments I have advised on in relation to matters such as the conflict in Ukraine and the Northern Ireland Protocol have been very difficult because of the competing interests at stake. In doing so I have been supported by brilliant colleagues across departments exploring creative solutions.     

What is the biggest challenge facing GLD in 2023, and how are you preparing to meet that challenge as an organisation?   

GLD continues to deliver an incredible range of legal services across government in support of key priorities; from the ambitious legislative agenda to supporting the response to the Covid Inquiry, advising on potential industrial action and tackling environmental protests. All of which are very resource intensive.  

“We are doubling down on our national recruitment campaign by raising the profile of our unique work across the country and improving pay”   

To meet the recruitment and retention challenges as demand continues to increase we are doubling down on our national recruitment campaign by raising the profile of our unique work across the country, improving pay for our people and collaborating with colleagues from across the legal profession.   

And personally, as a leader?   

To inspire colleagues across the department through these challenging times by setting a clear vision for the future, having a plan to achieve it, reinforcing the critical contribution of the civil service to the life of the nation and ensuring everyone in GLD understands how much we value their role in that fundamental purpose.  

It's not only Santa who has to work at Christmas. What is your best, worst or weirdest experience of working in the festive season?   
As a very junior barrister the Christmas period would find me in the cells of Bow Street Magistrates Court advising clients who, shall we say, had allowed the excesses of the season to get a bit out of hand. Far from glamorous! 


HR Leadership Legal
Share this page