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Best Value Tendering Part 2

Best Value Tendering Part 2

The Law Society claimed a partial victory when, after lobbying hard for a proper pilot and full evaluation of the proposals, the LSC promised that decisions on any roll out will not be taken until full pilots have been evaluated, which will not be before 2013. “This decision is a testament to the strength of the arguments put forward in the responses of the Law Society and all the other organisations who responded to the consultation” said Paul Marsh, Law Society President. He expressed pleasure that the LSC has adopted many of the suggestions in relation to the pilot model that were made in the economic report by LECG which was commissioned by the Law Society and welcomed the acknowledgement of the need for solicitors to be able to follow their clients out of area.

But there the welcome ends. Their main concerns are still that access to justice will be reduced and that there is a great risk of disrupting the existing supplier base. Firms are likely to feel pressured to make unsustainably low bids in order to win a contract and quality will not be taken into account as part of the bid process. The Law Society expressed disappointment that, despite an overwhelmingly negative response to BVT, the LSC has decided to proceed with pilot schemes in Manchester and Bristol. In a recent exchange of correspondence with the LSC, Des Hudson, Chief Executive of the Law Society, called for some protection for firms in the pilot areas. As bidding for contracts in the pilot areas will be open to all the firms in the whole country, this has the potential completely to destabilise and cause permanent damage to the existing supplier base, particularly as economic analysis has confirmed that the market is extremely fragile and that many firms currently operate at marginal profits. He also drew attention to the “complete lack of detail” of how the scheme will operate. “Please explain what, if any, training or advice you intend to provide.” Paul Marsh warned of the potentially destructive impact on firms in the pilot areas that will be forced to exit the market if they did not secure a contract. “For some lawyers in this position, the result will be personal bankruptcy,” said Marsh. “It is not acceptable that people should be bankrupted by the operation of a pilot scheme.”

Other views reported in the ‘Law Society Gazette’ included those of leading criminal law solicitor Andrew Keogh, who predicted the demise of BVT. “The pilots won’t happen. It’s a monumental shift by the LSC, kicking everything into the long grass.” Franklin Sinclair, senior partner at Manchester firm Tuckers, said practitioners would be looking at ways to challenge the decision to proceed, but if the pilots went ahead, it would be a “disaster for clients…I can foresee firms making unsustainable suicide bids and the price ending up so low that providing a service of any quality will not be possible.” Ian Kelcey, chairman of the Law Society’s criminal law committee, warned “each firm [in the pilot] will have to consider what decision it makes in relation to BVT. But they should be under no misapprehension that, if the price drops, the standards required by the SRA will not decrease.”

The full text of Des Hudson’s letter to the LSC is at:- http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/new/documents/2009/deshudson_lsc050809.pdf

and the LSC’s response is at:- http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/new/documents/2009/lscresponsebvt140809.pdf

This post was written by:

- who has written 460 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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