Thursday, August 26, 2010

Legal aid contracts: LSC shift the goalposts - possible basis for challenge?

Nearly Legal has pointed out what he calls 'a major shift in position' by the LSC regarding the tender for civil contracts.

A FAQ on the LSC's website includes the question: "I am concerned that I will not be able to deliver all the matter starts that I have been allocated, what should I do?", to which the answer was originally: "Under the contract, you will be required to deliver both the volume and breadth of services for which you have tendered…." Makes sense. However, the answer has now been changed to read: "If you are in any doubt as to whether you can deliver all your matter starts, please contact us through the message board and let us know how many you would like. We will then adjust your total. It is important that you receive the right allocation at the start of the contract." What??? So it doesn't matter how many you bid for, you'll still get the contract?

As Nearly Legal states, providers whose point scores were just below the ‘winners’ could "have missed out of a contract on a false premise – that the winners could deliver what was bid for – and now the LSC seeks to unilaterally alter the terms of the tender without addressing the award of contracts. To me that sounds like a basis for challenge."

Not being involved in the contract process, I am no expert on its terms, forms and inevitable acronyms. However, Nearly Legal does seem to have a very good point here, one which should be passed on to any firms wishing to mount a challenge to the family tender.


  1. It makes a mockery of the whole process.
    A few high-scoring firms have put in bids way over their historical take-up rate,drafting in the office cat etc as extra fee-earners,and in the process put competitors out of business.
    Because they scored high,they got what they asked for--oops.
    I now know people who are worried as to whether they can deliver.
    I have seen some mad things in my 30 years as a legal aid lawyer but we have now plunged over the edge into an abyss of lunacy.
    Now it seems they can quietly hand back their surplus,no penalty,and no questions asked.
    So we have a rigid arbitrary bidding process,followed by a voluntary re-shuffling of the deck.
    I am hoping that some of these returned crumbs will trickle down to us and beef up our own low allocation.

  2. Many thanks for that. If NL is right then it does indeed appear that we have "plunged over the edge into an abyss of lunacy".


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