The president of the Law Society has today written to solicitors stressing that the Legal Aid Agency risks running into serious trouble unless it delays the tender process for criminal work.
Andrew Caplen (pictured) has told lord chancellor Chris Grayling of Chancery’s Lane’s belief that the agency is ‘in no position’ to open the tender for duty provider contracts, partly because prospective bidders do not have enough information to lodge ‘cogent’ bids.
The detail supplied so far is inadequate, says Caplen.
Under the current proposals the tender window is scheduled to close in September, with shortlisting decisions expected in November.
Caplen writes: ‘Many solicitors’ firms are considering entering into a delivery partnership in order to bid for a contract. We would have expected detailed information to have been provided to potential bidders at the earliest opportunity, and are disappointed that the detail provided so far is inadequate.
‘Given that the requirements of such bids are likely to be complex, and taking into account the fact that firms will be unaccustomed to submitting bids of this nature, we believe that sufficient time to digest, understand and implement the Legal Aid Agency’s requirements is crucial.’
Caplen goes on to stress that the model of delivery partnerships on offer is likely to be ‘very unattractive’ to firms, and that the agency ‘is yet to fully address concerns as to the categorisation of procurement areas as urban or rural’.
An area’s classification has consequences for the number of partners permitted to submit a delivery partnership bid.
He also claims the proposals contain an ‘in-built bias’ against solicitor-advocates.
Caplen concludes: ‘Given the seriousness and complexity of these outstanding issues, we are clear that the Legal Aid Agency has little option but to delay the tender.’