Thursday, May 19, 2005

Competitive Tendering

Competitive tendering is a subject that I am following with interest at the moment. The Legal Services Commission issued a consultation paper some time ago setting out it's plans on how it will bring competitive tendering in. These plans, if brought in, are likely to force smaller firms doing crime work out of the market and generally reduce a defendant's ability to choose their own solicitor. The plans are aimed at changing the way Police Station and Magistrates Court cases are paid.

I attended at a local group meeting this week which consisted of partners or representatives from many crime firms in my local London Borough. The group had previously drawn up a joint response to the consultation paper and the final version has now been signed and approved by many of the firms in the Borough. Our meeting was fairly short and sweet. I actually felt quite positive about fighting competitive tendering whilst I was at the meeting. I was told that similar groups to my local group had been set up all over London and that the groups were being loosely co-ordinated by the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association.

If what I have been told is correct the Legal Services Commission can expect a massive response to it's plans for competitive tendering, the majority of which will be negative and will suggest that competitive tendering is a bad thing. There are suggestions that there could be thousands of responses. The responses should form some kind of pyramid. There will be individual responses, firm responses, local group responses, national group responses and at the top of the pyramid there will be a response from the Law Society. Usually a consultation paper from the Legal Services Commission will provoke several hundred responses. I am waiting to see if the number of responses does any better than several hundred. As a profession us solicitors whinge and moan about change, but very few of us actually do anything to force or prevent change.

For what it is worth I have drafted my response to the consultation document and it has been available on my website for others to download for at least a month now (you can see it at In fact I sent an e-mail to over 400 people inviting them to download the document. I shall sit down over the weekend, make some final amendments to the document and then send it off on Monday.

I will probably find out in July or August how many responses were sent to the Legal Services Commission. I will publically state now that if they receive over 1,000 responses I will go and buy a hat, cook it, and then eat it! I hope that several thousand responses are sent in but I just cannot see it happening.

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