The UK’s largest legal aid firm is teaming up with two London firms to bid for new contracts nationwide as the radical reshaping of the criminal legal aid market continues.

Duncan Lewis is to partner with east London’s largest criminal defence firm SJ Law and west London firm MB Law to collaborate as a consortium in the tender process for the new duty provider crime contracts.

Firms are currently bidding for 527 contracts. The deadline for tender applications is midday on 5 May.

Duncan Lewis practice director Jason Bruce (pictured) said it was vital there were ‘strategic partnerships’ in place among reputable law firms ‘to ensure the long-term delivery of a cost-effective criminal defence legal service’.

The partnership will create a combined team of more than 200 CLAS (criminal litigation accreditation scheme) crime duty solicitors across the consortium.

The three firms said they ‘continue to be in discussions with further providers’.

Southern high street firm McMillan Williams, which has private equity backing, said last month it will be submitting a ‘substantial’ number of tenders.