The Legal Aid Agency is continuing to work to its 11 January timetable for new duty provider contracts despite facing increasing threats of litigation from unsuccessful bidders.

The agency is expected to face procurement challenges from around 90 firms by the end of this week. It has also received a letter before claim for judicial review from seven firms, including Kaim Todner Solicitors, a key member of the Big Firms Group.

A spokesperson for the agency told the Gazette it had stated its intention to commence the new contracts from 11 January ‘many times, and this is the timetable we continue to work to’.

The agency will ‘strongly defend’ against any litigation, the spokesperson said.

‘Following a rigorous assessment of duty tender applications, 519 out of 520 preferred bidders have confirmed they want to proceed.

‘We took this process exceptionally seriously. Assessors received comprehensive training and the entire process was subject to careful moderation and management.’

The agency accepted there was disappointment among unsuccessful firms, ‘but it was always going to be the case there would be firms who did not win contracts they applied for’, the spokesperson said.    

Meanwhile the agency is uploading own-client contracts to firms that have successfully bid for duty contracts on the CWA (contracted work and administration) portal this week.

Remaining own-client contracts will be awarded ‘during November’.

The spokesperson said: ‘Given the large number of own-client contracts, about 1,800, we have decided to prioritise awarding own-client contracts for those who have been offered duty contracts.’