Criminal defence solicitors will find out this week if their firms are among the 500 expected to go out of business when the government reveals the outcome of its tenders for new legal aid contracts.
Firms will discover via the Legal Aid Agency’s Bravo e-tendering portal whether they have won one of a reduced number of contracts to provide 24-hour cover at police stations.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said applicant organisations will be notified about their tender outcomes ‘around the end of this month’.
Though there is no right of appeal to a contract decision within the tender process, the Law Society today set out guidance on potential routes for challenging the LAA’s decisions.
It published a checklist of potential breaches of the Public Contracts Regulations 2006 and the Public Contracts (Amendment) Regulations 2009 governing the tender process.
Judicial review was another option. But firms considering this ‘limited’ route would need to consider the impact of funding and cost provisions in part 4 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, the Society said.
‘It should be noted that even if a judicial review were to be successful, it would not follow that the contract decisions would change,’ it added.
London firm Bindmans is holding seminars in London tomorrow and Manchester on Wednesday to help solicitors understand their options for challenging contract decisions. The firm said a challenge must be brought within 30 days of grounds arising and sometimes within a week of a contract award decision to protect firms’ positions until a determination by the court.
Meanwhile a survey conducted by the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association (LCCSA) and Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association shows some firms may consider withdrawing their bids once contracts have been announced.
LCCSA president Jonathan Black said there was a ‘reasonably strong indication’ in some areas of England and Wales that ‘a number of firms’ would withdraw.