Legal aid firms will know by the end of the week if they have successfully applied for new crime contracts in what is expected to be a less traumatic notification process than last year.
The Legal Aid Agency has today begun notifying applicants of the outcome of their bids for new contracts, which come into force on 1 April. Letters are being sent through the agency’s eTendering system.
The agency says it expects to complete the notification process by Friday.
More than 1,400 individual organisations across 2,100 offices in England and Wales applied for new contracts. The agency currently has contracts with 1,356 organisations.
Last year, solicitors suffered a nerve-wracking day finding out whether their bids for one of 527 duty provider contracts were successful. The controversial two-tier contracting regime was scrapped by former justice secretary Michael Gove in January this year.
The agency today said that letters will set out the outcome of each bid by duty scheme and other categories of law for which firms have applied.
For applicants who do not want to do duty work, the letter will confirm for each office location whether they have been awarded work in criminal investigations and proceedings, prison law, and appeals and reviews.
Those wishing to join the April rota have until 12 December to provide ‘compliant’ information required for the verification process.
The agency is understood to have begun notifying unsuccessful applicants last month. Although the tender process was non-competitive, the agency was accused of ‘incompetence of the very highest order’ over multiple changes to its latest tender.
The agency also backed down over a controversial ‘embarrassment’ clause in its new contract terms after solicitors threatened to issue judicial review proceedings.